Marvel Funderburk Rathel

Completed in 1935, 3319 Trout River Blvd. was the first house constructed by the Rathels.

Marvel Funderburk Rathel was born on August 9, 1892, in Donalsonville, Georgia. Named after John Ernest Donalson, a local lumber mill owner, Donalsonville is the county seat of Seminole County, Georgia’s southwesternmost county. Marvel was the oldest of two girls of three boys born to farmer Robert Sample Beauegard Funderburk (1861-1936) and Talula Adel “Lula” Mosely Funderburk (1868-1941).

During the mid-1910s, Marvel married King Solomon Rathel. Three years younger than Marvel, King was born in Donalsonville on September 30, 1895. Marvel had attended high school. King only attended school through the fifth grade. Their daughter Lois was born in 1917. At the time, King was a blacksmith employed by Josh Floyd Jr. During World War I, he was drafted to the U.S. Army in June 1918 and discharged in February 1919.

The Rathels arrive in Jacksonville

In 1920, the couple resided in Donalsonville. Marvel was employed as a seamstress while King remained employed as a blacksmith. City directories indicate that the Rathels arrived in Jacksonville around 1926. While Donalsonville was a rural town with 1,000 residents, Jacksonville had become a rapidly growing city of more than 100,000, 20 years after the Great Fire of 1901 and in the midst of the Florida land boom. Census records show that their daughter remained with family in Georgia.

In Jacksonville, the Rathels resided in a former red light district brothel, converted into a rooming house, at 623 Houston St. King was employed as a body builder at the W.C. Rivers Carriage Co., at 205 Jefferson St., which specialized in auto body building, repairs, trimming, painting, welding and blacksmithing. By 1930, the Rathels had relocated from LaVilla to a residence north of town on Lem Turner Road.

Self-taught architects

Despite not finishing high school or being formally trained in the field, the Rathels acquired property near the Trout River and began a new career designing and building houses that have withstood the test of time. Built between 1935 and 1974, the Rathels built at least 15 masonry Art Deco houses. Common design characteristics and features include rounded corners, stucco exterior finishes, flat roofs and decorative yet functional drain pipes. The majority are located along Trout River Boulevard and a few side streets, near Lem Turner Road in the Riverview neighborhood.

After the completion of their last house in Lake Forest in 1971, the Rathels returned to their hometown of Donalsonville, Georgia. King Solomon Rathel died in 1976 and Marvel on February 8, 1983. Both were buried together in Evergreen Cemetery. While Marvel and King Solomon aren’t as well known as other names in Jacksonville’s architectural history, what they personally constructed has become a signature part of the Northside’s story, character and sense of place. Here are several of their surviving architectural works:

3262 Trout River Blvd. was completed in 1944. The Rathels lived in this residence for several years.