Secluded South: JustFly Explores The Abandoned Nautilus Foundation
While Florida is known generally as the home of Disney World, alligators and space launches, it is also just generally a pretty weird place. It turns out that under the sheen of all the tourism-driving attractions, there is another layer of truly bizarre. One place that personifies this is a place that, upon description, would sound like an evil henchmen’s layer or a mad scientist’s hidden hideaway. We spoke with JustFly, an online travel agency, to learn more about the mysterious Nautilus Foundation.
Let’s start first with the founder of the Nautilus Institute. Francois Bucher, born in 1927, was, by all measures, a genius. A Guggenheim Fellow and Getty Scholar, Bucher spoke six languages and was a confidant of Albert Einstein when he wasn’t teaching at Yale, Princeton, the University of Minnesota or Florida State. Upon Bucher’s retirement, he decided he needed a place where he could focus on and collect historical art and artifacts. The site was also to be an old boys club for famous thinkers of the time where they could smoke cigarettes and debate isolated from society.
Sometime in his mid-50s, Bucher began to build the Nautilus Institute. Described by a visitor as an “art castle in the North Florida woods,” the building featured a cold, concrete design. Specific features included living quarters, a lecture hall, a library and an art gallery. Unfortunately for Bucher, his ability did not match his ambition; several wings went unfinished as he aged, according to JustFly. Bucher lived out his final years at his unfinished complex, mostly alone. He was buried at the site under a concrete slab following his death in 1999.
The facility remained in use as a meeting center for Collins Institute but was abandoned and sold in 2013. The collection of art inside, which remained after Bucher’s death, was sold in 2012. The facility is now privately owned and not open to the public, according to JustFly’s review.
Photo Credit: The “whale garage” by R. Mathis from Atlas Obscura.