BUILDING A DAY: October 10, 2014
Landscape Architect and City Planner: John Nolen
Photos: Venice Museum and Archives, Venice Heritage
In 1903 and at the age of 34 John Nolen enrolled at Harvard University in the new landscape architecture program, studying under Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and Arthur Shurcliff. Over the course of his career, Nolen and his firm participated in over 400 public planning projects and works of landscape architecture, including comprehensive plans for twenty-nine cities and twenty-seven new towns, all of them in the United States. He was one of the first Americans to identify himself exclusively as a city planner.
In 1925, Dr. Fred H. Albee, a well-known orthopedic surgeon, purchased 2,916 acres of land from the Venice-Sarasota Company. Earlier, he developed Nokomis and built its first luxury hotel, the Pollyanna Inn. Albee retained John Nolen who had established an office in the 1920s in Jacksonville, Florida, to accommodate the large number of projects in the state.
Albee did not have a chance to implement his development plan before he was approached with a proposal from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers to purchase his land in 1925.
The BLE Company retained John Nolen to complete the plan for the city of Venice in 1926 and it differed slightly from the original 1925 plan. John Nolen’s 1926 plan for Venice emphasized “civic virtue and nature,” and its design illustrated garden city concepts that had gained favor by that time. The completion of the major elements of the plan was not realized during the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s, but was undertaken only in the Post-World War II era and completed in accordance with Nolen’s plan by 1960.
The John Nolen Plan of Venice Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 to protect the original urban fabric and unique sense of place established through Nolen’s design.