Mrs. Rhea Chiles became the principal innovator and founder of Florida House in 1972. She had a dream of creating an embassy for Floridians in Washington, D.C., offering a hospitable respite for weary travelers. She supervised the historic restoration of the 100-year-old Manning House that came to be Florida House. She served as Chairman Emeritus to the only state embassy in the nation until her death on November 8, 2015.
Rhea partnered with her husband, Lawton Chiles, during his 55 years of public service. Lawton served as a Florida State Representative, United States Senator and the Governor of Florida. Rhea served as the president and CEO of Florida House from 1973 until 1988.
Rhea was a practicing artist. Her watercolor called Window to Washington, depicting the beautiful view of the Capitol from the house's upstairs window, is the artistic signature of Florida House.