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RUFUS H. NIMS, AIA (1913-2005)

Born in Pensacola in 1913, Nims went to NC State University to study journalism. After completing his first year he bought a Ford for $5 and drove to Oklahoma to join his father on a construction job. There he saw a structure that had a profound effect on him and changed his major to architecture.  We'd like to know what that was! 

Nims graduated from NC State in 1934 with a degree in Architectural Engineering.  After graduating he sought adventure aboard a freighter ship as a merchant seaman.  He returned to Raleigh to work with Thomas Cooper.  There he designed his own house in Raleigh, below. Nims moved to Miami in 1943, started his firm in 1945, and lived there the rest of his life.  He is best known for designing the Howard Johnson motel template from which many were built. 

Nims was one of a handful of architects who defined the modern tropical house following World War II before the widespread use of central air-conditioning. Throughout his career, Nims received more than 18 national and international awards for architecture including the AIA Florida Silver Medal.  Nims' work, especially houses in Florida and the Caribbean, is archived at the University of Florida.

1938 - The Rufus Nims House, 1506 Canterbury Road, Raleigh.  Sold in 1942 to Ronie Sheffield.  Sold in 1981 to Paul and Judy Swenson who still owned it as of 2012. 


1938 - The R. S. Matthews House, 506 Dogwood Drive, Chapel Hill. Thomas Cooper was too busy to take this on and gave the work to Nims, then a draftsman.  It would become the first ranch-style house in town, an island of modern design in a sea of colonial revivals. The living room is triangular, and each room of the house has an outside door, said to be because the first owner had claustrophobia.  Sold to Josephine Pritchard in 1940.  Sold to Catherine Peele in 1941.  Sold to Agnes Lepper in 1951.  Sold to Elizabeth Williams in 1979.  Sold to Terry Hudgins in 1990, after which Dail Dixon did renovations.  As of 2012 still owned by Terry Hudgins.  Photo by Julie Hollenbeck.

1949 - The Charles Roman Residence, 5261 NE 5th Avenue, Miami FL.  Sold in 2015 to Jetson Corporation, who did not move in and the house was vacant two years. For sale in 2017.

1956 - A Salhaven Village house, part of a short-lived retirement village in Jupiter FL.  Photograph by Rudi Rada.

Around 1961 - The Woman's Day Vacation House. According to Dr. David Hill of NCSU, "between 1958 and 1963 Woman's Day magazine commissioned seven different architects to design summer cabins."  Nims was one of those architects.  We don't know if his design was ever built.

Sources include: His son Cameron Nims, Terry Hudgins, Dail Dixon