Francis Burrall Hoffman ( March 6, 1882 in New Orleans, Louisiana - November 27, 1980 in Hobe Sound, Florida) was an American born architect best known for his work with James Deering’s Villa Vizcaya in Miami, Florida.
Francis Burrall Hoffman, Jr. was born to a wealthy and socially prominent New York family line that began with the emigration of Martin Hermanzen Hoffman from Sweden in 1657. The family remained closely tied to the history and politics of the state, with Hoffman’s great-grandfather, Murray Hoffman serving as a Justice of the Supreme Court of New York and his grandfather, Wickham Hoffman acting as the United States Minister to Denmark from 1883-93.
Hoffman attended Harvard University, graduating in 1903. Hoffman spent his senior year as an apprentice at Carrere & Hastings, an architectural firm in New York. From 1903 to 1907, Hoffman attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, graduated with honors and returned to Carrere & Hastings in 1907.
In 1910, Hoffman left Carrere & Hastings to begin his own architectural firm in Manhattan. He shared an office space, as well as collaborating on projects with Henry Creighton Ingalls. Hoffman’s first commission was a mausoleum in the Woodlawn Cemetery for Edmund Walstein Davis.
In 1912, Hoffman was hired by James Deering as an associate architect for Villa Vizcaya. Collaborating with Paul Chalfin and Diego Suarez, the bayfront Italian style villa would become the largest and most notable project of his sixty year career.
Hoffman left the Villa Vizcaya project five years later in 1917 to enlist in the Army. During World War I, Hoffman served as Captain with the Corps of Engineers and later directed camouflage operations with the Second Corps, A.E.F. During World War II, Hoffman served overseas as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy.
In 1927, Hoffman married Virginia “Dolly” Kimball. Kimball was from a wealthy Virginia publishing family and quickly established a career as an interior decorator, and was often enlisted in the design of her husband’s projects. After the stock market crash in 1929, Hoffman closed up his firm in New York and he and Dolly spent a majority of their time traveling between New York and Paris. Upon his returns to New York, Hoffman rarely engaged in more than one architectural project a year.
Hoffman completed many commissions, mostly designing large houses for wealthy clients. Hoffman’s last project was completed in 1974. When he was nearly ninety-eight years old Hoffman died in 1980 in Hobe Sound, Florida.
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