Francis Fleetwood, Prolific Architect

June 17, 1946 - May 8, 2015
Francis Fleetwood, June 17, 1946 - May 8, 2015

Francis Fleetwood, a well-known East Hampton architect who designed more than 200 houses on the South Fork over his 36-year career, died on Friday of an embolism after a long flight from South America. He had just returned home to Wellington, Fla., following a photography trek in Patagonia, his family said.

Mr. Fleetwood, who was 68, is widely credited with reviving the Shingle Style of architecture on the South Fork in the mid-1980s, with houses of grand scale and graceful lines that were evocative of the area’s original summer colony homes even as they surpassed them in size and budget. He drew inspiration from such early-20th-century architects as Stanford White, but added large windows and big rooms to appeal to modern tastes.

His list of notable clients included Lauren Bacall, Calvin Klein, Paul McCartney, Alec Baldwin, Neil Hirsch, and George Stephanopoulos, to name just a few, and his houses included many that set records for size and price in their time. One was Burnt Point, an 18,000-square-foot mansion on the shores of Georgica Pond that sold for $45 million in 2004, then the most ever paid for a house in New York, according to The New York Times.

At one point, The Times wrote that the kitchen of a Fleetwood house on Dune Road in Southampton that had been featured in the movie “Something’s Gotta Give” “was the most desired kitchen in the United States,” James McMullan, his partner for almost 25 years in Fleetwood & McMullan Architects, recalled yesterday.

Mr. Fleetwood’s work has been featured in Architectural Digest, House & Garden, New York magazine, and The Times. In 2001, Forbes magazine named him one of the top 10 architects in the country, along with such notables as Michael Graves, Philip Johnson, Richard Meier, Jaquelin T. Robertson, and Robert A.M. Stern.

His houses, Forbes wrote, “are asymmetrical and are punctuated by expansive porches, breezeways, and turrets.”

“We were known for our sweeping roofs and eyebrow windows and custom chimneys,” Mr. McMullan said. It was a style that took off when “people started getting away from the modern houses,” he said, “and now everyone is kind of emulating it.”

While the iconic Fleetwood house was of mansion-like proportions, the firm “did some much smaller houses,” Mr. McMullan said, “and, actually, Francis said he always preferred the smaller houses because it was more challenging to fit the client’s wish list into a smaller house. He enjoyed the design part of it.”

Most of his design work was on the South Fork, but Fleetwood & McMullan had also done houses elsewhere on Long Island and in Florida and Connecticut, his partner said. “I only work outside the Hamptons if I’ve done a house for you in the Hamptons,” Mr. Fleetwood told Architectural Digest in 2007. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects.

When he was not working, Mr. Fleetwood was “the consummate adventurer,” wrote his brother, Blake Fleetwood of Amagansett and New York City. He enjoyed sailing, loved helicopter skiing, and had taken over 200 paragliding flights in this country and in Chile, Colombia, and Austria.

Two years ago, he lost a leg after falling 85 feet in a paragliding accident in Colombia. Last summer, after recovering from nine operations, and with an artificial leg, he sailed his new boat from Charleston, S.C., to the Devon Yacht Club in Amagansett with his brother, and then in October sailed back to Charleston through the edge of Hurricane Gonzalo. He was a member of the Devon Yacht Club.

A sensitive photographer, he had spent several weeks in Patagonia taking pictures and had traveled to Cuba two months ago.

Francis Freile Fleetwood was born on June 17, 1946, in Santiago, Chile, to Harvey Fleetwood and Dr. Maria Freile. He moved to New York as a baby and grew up there, attending the Dalton School, the Fessenden School in Massachusetts, and the Riverdale School in New York City before earning a B.A. from Bard College in 1970. He went on to earn a master’s in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He worked for the architectural firm of Pielstick & Roselack in Aspen, Colo., after graduating from M.I.T., then for Philip Johnson in New York City from 1977 to ’79 until opening his own office in East Hampton in 1980. He split his time between East Hampton and Wellington.

In addition to his brother, he is survived by his wife of 26 years, Stephanie Turner Fleetwood, and by a daughter, Catherine Newsome of Atlanta, and a stepson, Michael Orhan of Portland, Ore. His mother lives in New York City. He also leaves two sisters, Carmen Paul of New Jersey and Charlotte Fleetwood of Massachusetts, and three grandchildren.

A memorial will be held in East Hampton at a later date.