Between Cincinnati’s Gerald B. Tonkens House hitting the market for the first time and the re-surfacing of a fascinating, long-forgotten “what if” project from the 1930s, it’s been a busy posthumous month for Frank Lloyd Wright. And then there’s the matter of feral cats …
lucky jerks students, faculty, and staff of Florida Southern College have the pleasure of working, studying, and living on a campus that’s been declared as the country’s most beautiful two years in the running by the Princeton Review. Perhaps more famously, the college’s Lakeland campus is also home to Child of the Sun, a National Historic Landmark District that boasts the world’s largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings. Designed from the late 1930s up until a year before Wright’s death in 1959, there are 12 buildings in total — a couple of chapels, administrative buildings, a library, and more — although the architect envisioned a total of 18.
It was recently announced that FSC will finally be getting six more additional Wright-inspired buildings to complete the original ensemble. These structures will be home not to students but to something else that the college is renowned for aside from modernist architecture and intramural sports: a massive colony of feral cats.
Yep, more than 100 feral cats live on the FSC’s beauteous campus, and in an effort to provide them with shelter, the college has decided to erect six “cat cafes” inspired by Wright. (Although super prolific and diverse in his output, Wright never designed a feline domicile in his lifetime. He did, however, draw plans for a custom doghouse for a young client in California).
Described by The Ledger as “places where the wayward felines can kick back for a drink and some chow,” the six cat cafes will measure 5-feet-by-3-feet and be constructed, much like Wright’s Usonian Automatic homes, from custom-made concrete blocks.
Albany, New York-based architect Jeff Baker is responsible for their design while the Alpha Chi Omega sorority in partnership with the SPCA of Florida will be responsible for their upkeep. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that FSC is one of the few institutions of higher education in America where sorority members have the option to tend to feral cats as a service project.
Larissa Town, a 19-year-old freshman who serves as the VP of philanthropy for Alpha Chi Omega, tells The Ledger: "Right now they (the cats) are kind of on their own. They're feral, so they're afraid of us. They're not aggressive or anything. They're skittish.” She notes that the cafes will be "tucked away for the safety of the animals” and that "they're actually pretty adorable."
Along with new digs, the campus kitties will also be trapped — and spayed, neutered, vaccinated and tagged with a chip by the SPCA — before being released again. The trap-test-vaccinate-alter-release program on campus is privately funded.
The blocks used to construct the cat cafes are actually leftovers from the construction of FSC’s Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, a Usonian-style building that’s also being added to the campus.
Rendering: Florida Southern University