Wright-Influenced “Cat Condos” Find Homes as Off-Campus Housing

Oct 6, 2020

by FSC Staff
Originally appeared in Southern News Magazine

Around the time when Frank Lloyd Wright’s long-dormant design for a Usonian House was taking shape in 2013 — to become the 13th of the famed architect’s distinctive structures at FSC — Wright’s unique vision began to be “purrfectly” translated in a whimsical-but-practical fashion.

Restoration architect Jeffrey Baker, of Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects of Albany, N.Y., created a classy design for “cat cafes,” each of which could shelter a half-dozen feral felines.

Rodda Construction, Inc. built two or three of the six planned structures, using leftover construction materials from Florida Southern’s Usonian House project. But the “cat cafes” never were installed on campus, and instead were sent into storage in a half-finished state.

A few years later, Trustee Dr. Bob Puterbaugh found himself wondering what had become of those sturdy concrete-and-metal structures.

Dr. Puterbaugh, a senior attorney at Peterson & Myers, P.A. in Lakeland, contacted the College’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, Terry Dennis ’94, who located two of the structures in a warehouse.

“It’s questionable whether there was a third,” he said. “That was a long time ago.”

The College was “quite glad” to remove both existing structures from storage, Dennis said, so Dr. Puterbaugh could paint them and place them outside his home in Christina Woods. Nicely spruced-up and redubbed “cat condos,” they now provide shelter for some of the many feral cats in a nearby wooded area.

“There are three levels and six condominium units in each one,” Dr. Puterbaugh explained. Many times, both structures are filled, he said, “especially if they have kittens” or when the cats seek shelter from heavy rains and summer heat.

The sheer weight of the concrete structures made their relocation — on the back of a flatbed truck — a major operation. Dr. Puterbaugh appreciates the safety and security they provide to his four-legged visitors, however.