Shortly after placing the offer on the house—crossing my fingers and positively deciding it would be ours—I set out to find whatever I could in public records… and among electrical permits from the 70s, there they were:  The original drawings of our house.  Well, very bad scans of the original drawings of our house.  Even then, way more than I expected to find; two sheets containing floor, foundation, and roof plans, elevations, and typical wall sections.  Two sheets sufficed to build a house in 1951.
I studied every line—found some discrepancies, minor alterations over the years.  Then I noticed the title block:  Residence for Mr. Dean Claussen by Manfred M. Ungaro, Architect.  Yay!  [Insert warm fuzzy feeling].  This meant that our house was not a model or spec home.  It meant that someone—Mr. Dean Claussen—had decided to build his residence to his liking and had commissioned an architect to do it.  It meant that every wall, beam, and window location had been thought about and debated.  An architect—Manfred M. Ungaro—had designed our house!  And then, it hit me: “Wait, who is Manfred M. Ungaro?” Having never heard of him, I started my research.  Now, (thanks to Google) I know that:
The September, 1946 Bulletin of the Florida Association of Architects lists him as a member; one of 656 registered architects.
“The large apartment buildings… designed by architect Manfred M. Ungaro in 1952, are an excellent expression of Vernacular MiMo.”
 “…other significant architects who frequently designed Post War Modern style apartment buildings in North Beach were… and Manfred M. Ungaro.”
“…and Manfred Ungaro were also quite influential. Together, these architects defined a new direction of mid-century modern design in Miami Beach.  Their buildings, conditioned to the environmental forces of a hot and humid climate as well as to the need to distinguish buildings within a competitive environment, led to a daring and unexpected expression of modern themes.”
..and that, according to the drawings, his office was located at 816 Olympia Building (aka Gusman Center Building), which I could see from my desk at work.   
Since nothing could be found about him personally, I’ve chosen to liken him to one of his contemporaries; someone like Rufus Nims or Alfred Browning Parker.  Just as willful and passionate about architecture.  I have imagined Mr. Claussen and Mr. Ungaro bent over the drawings of our [their] house, endlessly debating lifestyle preferences, where bedrooms should be located, and what the light would look like in the morning.  
I hope that Mr. Claussen was pleased with Mr. Ungaro’s work and that he was truly happy in his [our] house. 


  1. Our house at 177 NE 88th St. El Portal, FL 33138 was also designed by Manfred Ungaro. Date 11-13-48. I believe the architecture could be classified as Mid-Century Modern.
    Best, Lee Williams rev.lee@juno.com

  2. Lee, we are a few blocks away. From my research most of his work is Mid-Century Modern. Hope you are enjoying your house as much as we are ours. Best, Leslie