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The mid-century modern gem that was the home of the Pineapple King.

The Pineapple House

The living room of The Pineapple House | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb​

Every king needs a castle. This was true of Lake Placid's Pineapple King as well. This castle just happened to be in the form of a Ranch style mid-century home situated behind the Plantation Paradise shop.

Harold "Jake" Emminger purchased approximately 35 acres of land in the Central Florida city of Lake Placid after leaving the Air Force. During World War II, Harold had been stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and served as a navigator on B-26 bombers.

Harold received the moniker of the Pineapple King after founding his fruit stand and gift shop Plantation Paradise in 1952. The shop was built on the east side of the land he owned along US Highway 27. At that time, US-27 was a major north-south route for those traveling throughout Florida, making a storefront along this stretch of highway prime real estate. A giant golden pineapple sign built in front of the shop would catch the eye of curious tourists interested in getting a taste of the Sunshine State.

Plantation Paradise offered visitors a range of souvenirs, along with fresh juice and preserves made in the preserving kitchen attached to the shop. Pineapple toothpaste, wine, and candy were the most popular items in the shop according to Harold.

(You can read more about the history of Plantation Paradise here.)

The Pineapple House

Screenshot from Google Earth of the Plantation Paradise & Pineapple House property.

After purchasing the land and opening Plantation Paradise, Harold Emminger set out to build a house fit for a pineapple king – hence the sobriquet "The Pineapple House." Built in 1955, the house behind the shop was the epitome of mid-twentieth century design. The ranch style house was far and away the most popular architectural style at the time. By 1950, 9 out of every 10 new homes built in the United States was a ranch style house.

After World War II, home ownership soared as people sought to carve out their own little slice of the American dream. The G.I. Bill signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in June 1944 had made it possible for millions of returning servicemen to obtain low-interest mortgages and this would lead to a boom in the housing market.

While this architectural style was soaring in popularity throughout the country, ranch style homes were particularly well suited for Florida. The flat terrain and warm climate made these types of homes a natural fit.

The ranch-style house is characterized by its long, close-to-the-ground profile and wide-open layout. The style fused with modernist ideas and styles to create a more informal and casual living style. I've seen it said that most mid-century modern houses are ranches, however not all ranch style homes ascribe to the mid-century modern style. The majority of middle America’s ranches were more traditional and reserved in design, whereas mid-century moderns were just that: modern and contemporary.


With the open concept design of this mid-century house, the kitchen transitioned seemlessly into the living room area | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb​

These mid-century modern homes valued function over form, a concept that, if you know me, you will have likely heard me deride in no uncertain terms countless times. So, how did I become so smitten with this house? The difference in modern and mid-century modern is in the use of decorative accents; mid-century modern allows for some more flashy decor and artwork. While cookie cutter modern design bores me to tears, these peak mid-century houses often managed retain enough of an eye for the beautiful little details even with its sights set on the future, achieving a perfect balance of modern design and traditional charm. The Pineapple House incorporated enough touches of distinctive personality that gave it character. Also, much of the kitchen still looks like it’s never been changed since it was built and maybe I'm a bit (or more than a bit) nostalgic for the 1950s.

The Pineapple House is a shining example of essentially all the characteristics of the mid-century modern ranch style house, with a bit of old Florida flare. A step into this airy old Florida style house tucked away behind the Plantation Paradise shop is like being transported back to the 1960s. A single-story house with an open floor plan, an abundance of large windows, and an emphasis on a seamless flow integrating the indoors and outdoors.

A key element of new houses built in the 1950s was the prevalence of natural materials in construction. Exposed brick, concrete blocks, and terrazzo floors were all common features of the era and are all on display here. The exposed brick walls make up much of the exterior of the Pineapple House and even part of the interior living room wall.

The Pineapple House

The outside front carport of The Pineapple House | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb​

With the rise in automobile ownership in the 1950s, many homes built around this time were designed with covered carports, and the Pineapple House was no exception. The front door to the house, still sporting jalousie windows, opens out into the carport. It wouldn't be a true Florida home without some jalousie windows.

Most of the main living area of the Pineapple House has terrazzo flooring. Terrazzo – a flooring material made of chips marble, granite, quartz, glass, or shell, set in concrete and polished to give a smooth surface – is an iconic feature of mid-century architecture. Like the ranch style house design, terrazzo was particularly well-suited to Florida's warm and humid climate. It’s durable and easy to maintain, and the natural stone aggregates helped keep the surface cool, which was especially beneficial in a region known for its hot temperatures.

Most ranch homes are laid out simply with clean lines, typically rectangular or L-shaped, though the home of the Pineapple King had an almost perfectly T-shaped layout. The front door led into a small foyer with a bathroom off to the side. Beyond that the house opens up into the kitchen and living room.

And boy does it ever open up. The open concept layout is fully embraced in the design of this house with the kitchen transitioning seamlessly into the living room area. Houses built in the mid-twentieth century were typically designed to create a seamless transition between living, dining, and kitchen areas with spacious interiors and few dividing walls. It was believed that this kind of design would encourage a sense of connectivity and social interaction within the home. A peninsula divided the kitchen from the rest of the living area, though the counter is more of a glass display case, helping to maintain that open concept flow.

The Pineapple House

The glass case peninsula separating the kitchen from the living room | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb​

The kitchen is straight out of a housewife’s catalog from mid-twentieth century suburbia, complete with a lazy-Susan and retaining most of the original appliances. It was easily one of my favorite parts of the house; my inner Betty Draper housewife self was swooning.

The kitchen appears to have been updated very little since the house was built in 1955. Kitchens in 1950s homes blended practicality with style, embracing the optimism of the post-war era, and characterized by functional layouts and cheerful design elements. Pastel color schemes were popular in the 1950s and colors like pale yellow, mint green, pink, and – in the case of The Pineapple House – blue were commonly used for kitchen cabinets, walls, and accents.

The Pineapple House's kitchen still had what were likely the appliances from when the house was first built, including the wall oven and built-in counter cooktop. The kitchen's layout was certainly in line with the classic "kitchen triangle" concept, with the sink, stove and oven, and refrigerator arranged in a triangular configuration to facilitate easier meal preparation and cleanup. The refrigerator was definitely not original but regardless this was a retro kitchen that I was absolutely enamored with.

The Pineapple House

The cooktop stove built into the countertop | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb​

The mid-twentieth century saw the rise of sleek, modern appliances that incorporated chrome accents and colorful finishes. Rather than an all-in-one appliance as is found in most modern homes today, the built-in cooktop in the central kitchen island and the wall oven were separate. Substantial windows along with the sliding glass doors that made up much of the living room walls allowed an abundance of natural light into the house, creating a bright and airy atmosphere.

Sliding glass doors and large picture windows are staples of both the Mid-Century Modern and Ranch homes. The emphasis on blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces along with allowing for natural ventilation and bringing in lots of natural light seems like a concept that was made for Florida. We're called the Sunshine State for a reason.

Mid-Century homes often had sliding glass doors that would open onto patios. The Pineapple House had not one, but three of these sliding glass doors along the walls in the living room. Essentially all of the walls were windows, with a small part of the wall adjacent to the kitchen exposed brick.

The Pineapple House was built with a gently sloped but mostly flat roof, a style that had become increasingly popular in the middle of the twentieth century. The overhanging eaves of the roof provided covered shaded areas on the sides of the house while also helping to protect the home from heavy rain and inclement weather, a necessity in Florida. The sliding glass doors on one side of the living room look out to a view of open pasture that was part of the land on which Harold Emminger would grow his pineapples during his time operating Plantation Paradise.

The Pineapple House

The wall of the living room area was made up of more windows and sliding glass doors than bricks | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb​

On the opposite side of the house, the wall of sliding glass doors opens straight into an overgrown thatch of trees beyond the covered patio walkway. A small pond was built into the patio and a larger natural pond lays just beyond the tangled mass of branches, with likely more than a few alligators as residents.

It wasn't uncommon for mid-century homes built in Florida to incorporate elements of tropical design to reflect the state's unique environment, both in outdoor landscaping choices and indoor details. With such an emphasis placed on indoor-outdoor living in mid-century modern design, it's not surprising that a lot of thought was put into the aesthetics of outdoor landscaping. After all, if you're going to have an abundance of large picture windows, you want the view to be good. Landscaping played a significant role in the design of 1950s Florida homes, with many properties featuring lush, tropical vegetation. Palm trees, flowering shrubs, and tropical foliage were often used to enhance curb appeal and create a sense of privacy and tranquility. What is now an overgrown tangle of trees and shrubs with a pond barely visible twinkling from beyond the brush was once a tropical oasis next to the Pineapple House.

The Pineapple House

The hallway toward the back of house that led into the bedrooms and second bathroom | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb​

Beyond the living room was a hallway where the bedrooms were located. This area formed the top part of the T shape of the house's layout and was wider than the rest of the house.

Two steps up led to the carpeted hallway and the rooms beyond, but here is where we find what was definitely my other favorite part of the house. The hallway was bordered by a wrought iron railing with beautiful decorative palm tree accents. It's a bit of a throwback to Gothic architecture, in which wrought iron balusters were an often-used feature, but with a touch of Florida flare. Florida Gothic, if you will.

Beside the stairs were built-in brick planters that would have been amazing accents to the living room when filled with tropical plants. There are similar built-in planters at each end of the hallway. It's these little design elements, while not strictly necessary for practical purposes, that give the house character, charm, and personality. I'm glad that in these respects the form follows function mantra was cast aside.

The hallway leads to three bedrooms and a second bathroom. The thick yellow loop carpet covering the floor in the hallway and bedrooms is a testament to the fact that not everything about the aesthetic of that time was good.

All of the rooms had built-in closets and shelves, a common trend in mid-century home design. By the 1950s and 1960s, with the rise of suburbanization and single-family homes, built-in closets and shelving were standard in many newly constructed homes in Florida, providing functional storage as well as contributing to the overall aesthetic appeal and organization of bedrooms and other living spaces. The bedrooms still retained the personal touches of the previous owners; old books on bookshelves, magazine cutouts and stickers affixed to the walls, and even a Twilight poster affixed next to the window in one of the bedrooms.

Despite the regrettable flooring choices of a bygone era, this house is an example of the best of mid-century modern architecture, with the added benefit of being able to order a pizza and tell the delivery driver “it’s the house with the giant pineapple out front, you can’t miss it.”

With the evolution of interstate highways, US-27 was no longer the main north-south thoroughfare it once was. Business slowed down considerably for Plantation Paradise as a large number of would-be customers opted to take the newer interstates.

In 1985, Harold Emminger married Virginia McKenna and together they moved out of The Pineapple House to Manatee County. However, Harold would continue to make the daily commute to keep up the shop "where pineapples grow" in Lake Placid for nearly two more decades before retiring in 2004 at the age of 85.

The palm tree details on the hallway railing were one of my favorite parts of the house | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb​

The house changed hands several times after Harold's retirement. Property records show that the storefront, house, and surrounding land were purchased in February 2004 for $559,000. The last occupants of the Pineapple House were there until at least the beginning of 2010, as deduced by the poster on the bedroom wall. The poster is from the movie Twilight New Moon, which didn't come out until November 2009.

The property was owned by Shonda Legree for a time, though it’s unclear if she lived in the house or just operated the shop at the front of property, which had been renamed "Shonda's Souvenirs."

In March 2021, the 35-acre property including the old Plantation Paradise shop and the Pineapple House was purchased by Peter and Jeisse Hernandez. The couple announced plans to fix up the old shop and revitalize the land, turning it into a working farm that they hope to open to the public. One can only hope that they don't fix things up too much, because the architectural details and mid-century kitchen in the house are absolute gems. With the couple's plan to breathe new life into such a beautiful property with a rich history, there is hope that it can once again become the paradise for which the shop was named.

The Pineapple House

The open concept flow of the kitchen leading into the living room | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb​

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