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Oral History Interview with Donovan Dean

I’m Patrick Donovan Dean born here in Orlando General Hospital 28 September ’39. I was born here, but during the war my folks moved to Lakeland. My father, Donovan Dean, was an architect, and became the base engineer for the military base in Lakeland.They lived in Wisconsin and moved to Orlando in ’37, ’38. Dad was sick and on crutches and came down here to work. He found work with an architect in south Orlando who taught him how to draw.

LISTEN Part I (19:14)


College Park Home

My dad was a licensed contractor up in Illinois and when he became sick the doctors told him to move south because he’d never see the age of 35. He went over to the ocean and sat in the ocean and healed his wounds. He’s loved Florida ever since. They built a house on the southeast corner of Yale and Depauw. A little small one story house.

Donovan Dean as a toddler in College Park

I remember my bedroom especially. (I was two years old, two and a half when we moved to Lakeland.) The bedroom I shared with my brother, we had bunk beds. He had the top bed and I had the bottom bed. But I remember there was a round window in the bedroom and that house still exists today. It’s one house off the southeast corner. My granddad used to come down and take me for wagon rides with my little red wagon up and down the sidewalks there of that street.


I grew up in Lakeland, grammar school and high school. Moved to the first new house in 1945. We were the first house in a new subdivision on the southwest side of Lakeland. We played out in the field and climbed trees and dug forts and tunnels and had tunnels cave in on us. And kids rescued us. We inspected all the new houses that were being built in the neighborhood. I was a curious kid. I think that’s where I got my love of construction and seeing stuff. We used to play tag on top of the top rail. Once the first story walls were up, block walls and interior wood frame, they put a double top plate up there. And our neighbor friends, four or five guys, would get up on top of these plates and run around and play tag and you’re it. And I mean, if you missed a step, I mean you were on the concrete so don’t do it more than once. When it got to be two stories, we figured out that we could ride our foot scooters off the roof into the sand pile. And we would do back flips off the house into the sand pile….

Drane Field

The airport that, the Army Base Airport that my dad was a base engineer for in Lakeland was Drane Field out in the southeast end of town. It became an abandoned field, but when I was in high school, when I graduated from high school like all my other guy friends we wanted cars, you know, as a graduation present from high school. Well, Dad said, no you’re going to college and you can’t have a car up there in your freshman year anyways.

Flying Lessons at Lodwick Field

One day he came home and he took me out to Lodwick Field in north Lakeland and signed me up to take flying lessons. I was 17, I had graduated from high school. I was scared, excited. Got in the Piper Tri Pacer little tricycle landing gear and we took off. Gosh, that was more fun! I took 10 hours of flight instruction time and then on my tenth hour my instructor took me out to the old abandoned Drane Field that dad was base engineer on. It had great big X’s on the runway because you couldn’t fly into it supposedly, but that’s where we did touch and go landings. And after the second touch and go, he asked me to stop and turn around and come back. He stepped out of the plane and said, “You’re doing great, keep doing it.” And I took off at 17 years of age looked back on the field as I did my left turnout and here was the instructor he was about this tall – looked like an ant down there and I’m up there by myself. Wow! What a great feeling!    

Showalter Flying Service

My first solo flight, round robin flight, was from Lakeland to St. Pete back over to Orlando Airport which is now the Executive Airport and that was Showalter Airport at the time. That would have been in ’47.

Showalter Flying Service opened a new flight school and flying service at Orlando Municipal Airport in October 1947.

The main terminal had a little small reception area and communication with the microphone for aircraft. That was kind of fun. Was there much traffic at the airport? Oh, no. Today, I’ve flown over this today and, gosh, there are so many no fly zones, and height restrictions and the radio control stuff. We were totally open. In college I flew with a fellow who had a twin engine Piper Apache and I became his right hand man. But we flew all over Florida and the islands and up there through Georgia and Kentucky. My wife’s from Kentucky and I flew up there to say “hi” to her one time.

Building Tree Houses

When we were in the neighborhood playing tag, sand lot football and baseball and we rode bicycles all over town. We had bikes stolen. We went out to the phosphate pits and stripped down and went swimming. We had lived out in the country with friends and dogs and camped over night by the creek and we had orange fights in the groves. Many of us rode bikes after school to a grove tree house. Two blocks away from my house was a big citrus grove and there was a huge tree right near it. And we borrowed some used construction materials from the houses that were being constructed. And we built these monster tree houses and big swings and we’d all rush there after school. Of course, this was before high school. We weren’t driving. And so we would jump on our bikes and ride to the tree house and play cards. Canasta. We loved Canasta. Two deck Canasta. We had orange fights. We’d get out there and choose up teams. And you never wanted to be hiding behind a tree because a green orange hurt like Hades when it hit you. So you’d stand out in the rows and see the incoming and try to duck.

And I remember one time the grove caretakers left a tractor, a Ford tractor out in the grove to come back the next day. Three of us little guys decided we were going to learn how to drive it. So we figured how to get it started and we each took tuns driving around. But we didn’t know how to stop it. We didn’t know how to turn it off. So I drove it into a citrus tree and it just sat there and the wheels spun at the axles and it finally run out of gas, I guess.

My brother Dick was eleven and a half years older than me. He joined the Marine Corps right after WWII. He ended up joining the Marines when I was entering first grade.So there was quite a distance between us. So I said dad came down from Illinois on the train in crutches, but my mother had packed up Dick and all the house belongings in Illinois and the dog and got in the car and drove to Florida. She’d never been out of the state of Illinois and drove by herself with a young ten year old son down to Orlando.

Daisy Ryder BB Gun

When Dick was in The Marines the first year at Christmas he sent me a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. I remember that gun. I was six years old and my mother had a conniption fit. Dad said, “Yeah, but he’s got it now. We got to teach him proper safety and care and how to shoot.” So that’s how I started in shooting. I’ve shot a bunch of things. Right now I’ve shot everything I intend to shoot. I don’t intend to kill anything else.

Camping at Orange Hammock

I got a 22 when I was nine years old. Dad and his partner at the office each had a boat and each had sons, we were the same age. We went down the Kissimmee River camping at Orange Hammock just the two dads and two kids, actually there was another friend with us, Johnny Allen, and we all had 22’s. We went down there to learn to plink. And the first time down there we camped at Orange Hammock. Of course, I was driving boats by then. We had a little 25 horsepower Evinrude on a 14 foot pinion. Bobby, son of dad’s  partner had a plywood boat with a ten horse hurricane Mercury which was faster with just one driver in it. But you would put a load in it and the 25 foot Evinrude was much better.

A mess of Gators

We were riding down the Kissimmee River. Kissimmee I think means hairpin in Seminole language. Anyway, the Kissimmee River was full of hairpin turns. Three of us kids, we were coming around the bend, I was driving, Bobby was at the bow. There was a gator just about that time, a submerged gator perpendicular to us and we hit him. The engine kicked up, lost control of steerage. The gator was doing carrot rolls madder than stink. The boat was at speed and we ran right into the far bank on the curve. And as soon as we hit the bank, four gators came over the bank, two on each side of the boat sliding down in so we had come into a mess of them. Scared us to death. We threw the engine back down and cranked up and headed out. That was also the trip that while we were cleaning the dishes in the river after dinner, supper that night wind came up. Bobby was washing one of the dishes. I was drying. A snake fell out of the palm tree from the wind, hit him on the shoulders and neck, and slithered down in the water and he wasn’t hurt. We caught the snake and skinned it and nailed it to a board. And that was the first snake I’d ever skinned. It was a banded water snake. Florida is full of banded water snakes….

Mulberry Pool

Dad was a swimmer and a diver so I learned from an early age. I was four years old when I learned to swim in the Mulberry Pool south of Lakeland. It was a phosphate mining company that dumped a bunch of clear water out of 24 inch pipe and added a diving board on top of the pipe into a concrete pool and that’s where we learned to swim,. Also at Kissengen Springs just outside Kissimmee somewhere, I wasn’t sure where it was, but we used to have a lot of picnics there. I remember swimming in the boil in what is now The Springs out here, Seminole County, Longwood. It costs you 25 cents to purchase a wire basket in which to place your clothes. On the basket was attached a large safety pin with a number on it and you clipped that to your bathing suit. There was an open sided men’s and women’s changing room, open air, metal roof top, boards, siding for a couple of benches. And then they had racks for putting the trays in. I remember the boil and I think there was a slide. I think we used to slide down a slide to what is now a boil in The Springs. But it was cold as could be….

High school photo of Orlando native Donovan Dean.

High School Activities

I was a diver and a swimmer. I even dove for the Georgia Tech Swimming Team my freshman year. [So that’s where you went to school? Georgia Tech?] I went to Georgia Tech. Finished high school in ’57. I was active in school. I couldn’t get into Georgia Tech today based on my grades. I guess I must have done okay on the SAT’s or whatever the comparable was at that time. Plus I was so active in school. I played a little sports. I was too small. I was always the shortest kid in my class growing up. I was kind of a clown and a  monkey. But I became class treasurer and all kinds of activities. Art editor on the annual, involved in Junior Exchange Club. I played tennis for the high school team. I taught myself to play tennis when I was in the 9th grade. I couldn’t play basketball I was too short, elbows in my eyes. And football, I weighed a 135 pounds when I graduated from high school. So anyway, I was fairly quick. I ran a quick 100. I was not very good at distance. 440’s were killer for me.

How did you select Georgia Tech?

Well, let’s see, I was going to be an artist. I wanted to go to California in art school and be a commercial artist. And mom sat me down one day and said, “You know, architecture’s been good to your dad. It makes an income.” She knew some starving artists and she said, “You can always go back and become an artist. Let’s go get a degree in architecture.” So mom was the leveling influence in my family.

Donovan Dean’s mother, Mrs. Marian Dean.

Dad was the outdoorsman. He was just a sweetheart. He was just a gentleman. I got accepted to University of Florida and went up and saw the Architecture Department at University of Florida at the time which was Quonset huts, old metal, round, half tube Quonset huts.  Two of them were the architecture department. I had come home and said.. I had applied to Tech but didn’t hear back from them until late in my senior year, just before summer started. So my folks sent me on a plane by myself up to Atlanta. First time I’d ever been on a commercial plane. It was a super conny is what they called them at the time. It was a prop plane. I got on the plane, flew up to Atlanta. One of the guys from Lakeland who was in a fraternity up there at Tech picked me up at the airport, had a room for me in the fraternity house. Found out I was a tennis player in Atlanta. Fixed me up with some girl dates, friends of his from high school. We played tennis and I got to see all of Atlanta and I came home and said, “Mom and Dad there’s another world out there.” Little did I know how dog-eat-dog Tech was. In hindsight had I known I was going to come back to Orlando and practice here I’d been better off for contacts to have gone to Florida…

LISTEN Part II (19:55)



Well first before I was in college I went through ROTC. Air Force ROTC because I was a pilot, hit college as a pilot. I rented planes in Atlanta and flew some of my fraternity brothers around. I was going to fly for the Air Force. Well the Air Force ROTC was two years and in two years you do the undergraduate and then you decide to go into advanced ROTC. Well, I went in to talk to the Colonel Air Force ROTC there and I said, “Look, I’m a five year student. My fifth year is my thesis. It’s very important to me that I have concentrated time on thesis work. So I want a leave of absence. I’ll go into advance ROTC my junior and senior year. But I want a leave of absence and then I’ll go fly for the Air Force. He said, “No.” The Air Force won’t do that. We want you to go into advanced ROTC, go off and fly for us for five years and then come back and get your 5th year. And I said, “Wait a minute I’m having troubles enough with Calculus now, you want me to remember all that stuff?” Okay, fine. So I got out of the ROTC.

1964 photo of Donovan Dean serving in the United States Navy Civil Engineer Corps.

Officer Corps of the Civil Engineers

I then went after college to interview all the services… I went to the Navy and I was going to be a supply officer and learn business. They said, “Wait a minute, you’re an architect graduate, we want you in construction.” So they talked me into signing up for the Civil Engineer Corps. We were the Officer Corps of the Civil Engineers with the CV’s so I was a CV. Well, before that let me tell you about the fraternity.

Theta Beta Pi

The fraternity at Georgia Tech, there were a bunch of them, we had what I think was absolutely the best fraternity, Theta Beta PI. High profile guys. ATO’s were the rich kids on campus. Phi Delta’s were the jocks. The Delts were the playboys. The Sigmi Chi’s were the sweethearts, but the Beta’s – we ruled the campus. We were strong in activities all throughout the campus. We had the GPA overall, always competed with that. We were athletes, we competed with intramurals. We controlled the publications, the annuals, the magazines. I was art editor on the magazines and the annuals. The fraternity was, we had, I don’t know 85-90 members, pledge classes of 15-25 people. I was pledge master for two years, loved it every year.

The kids, I got along great with guys who were a couple years younger than me and brought them up properly. We didn’t haze like others did. We had a gentlemen club and Tech was a closed non-drinking campus supposedly. The IOC, the intra fraternity council had a policy, unwritten, but if it was in an opaque container and you were behaving, because they came around and inspected at all the parties, all the house parties, the drinking. And we had a policy in the fraternity, if we saw guys messing up, getting too boisterous or if the inspecting officer said, “Hey, this guy is out of control,” we’d grab him, take him upstairs, give him some aspirin and put him to bed. But the fraternity was as close, it was a brotherhood. It was just wonderful. Getting to meet those guys and seeing them, all over the country….

Mary Ann from Agnes Scott

Came back to Orlando after the Navy, married, two kids, beautiful wife, two boys.

Donovan Dean with his wife, Mary Ann Dean, and their two children, Patrick Donovan Dean, Junior, right side, and Gregory Lee Dean at scout camp in Florida.

In fact, my wife Mary Ann Dean was Executive Director of the Orlando Civic Theater and Orlando Shakespeare Festival…. She spent 30 years in theater.

Mary Ann Dean at leisure in Central Florida

She was a Spanish language major from Agnes Scott and that’s how I met her at Tech. I was Rush Chairman for rounding up all the ladies to come help us rush at the fraternity for a couple years, so I knew most of the gals in town. Atlanta was wonderful. It was beautiful. It had great people. But my car after meeting Mary Ann knew automatically how to get from Georgia Tech to Agnes Scott College in Decatur. It was on automatic pilot. She was from Alabama and Kentucky and Georgia in the college, so she’s a southern lady. She was switchboard operator, on scholarship, valedictorian of her high school. How she picked me, I don’t know. Maybe opposites attract.

Mrs. Mary Ann Dean

Anyway, we went through the Navy, had our first child there at Quantico, Virginia Marine Corps School. We spent three and a half years there… When we got out of the service we came back to Atlanta. Went to work for architectural firms there for five years apprenticing myself for three of those years. 

Schweizer Associates in Orlando

Came down here in ’71 the month that Disney announced, well Disney opened in October of ’71. Schweizer Associates in Winter Park, we grew from 30 to 120 people while I was there. It was a major growth spurt. Lived in a rented house in Winter Park for two and a half years and when we left we had a pile of rent notices, throwing money down the drain so we bought a house in Orlando. Opened an office, worked out of my third bedroom for a year and a half.

740 North Magnolia

Then moved into an office in Loch Haven Park. Left Schweizer in ’73. And then ’75 came along with a fuel crises, oil crunch. Terrible times for the economy here. And so we survived that on our own. And I said if we can survive that we can survive anything. I was in practice until 2009. So from ’73 to 2009, whatever that is, thirty something years. Little small architect, had my office on North Magnolia Avenue. 615 North Magnolia for a while. It’s now been renovated. I think it’s a vet clinic now. Then I moved to 740 N. Magnolia which I just sold the building. It’s a one story building, Art Deco built in ’47. 

Architect Donovan Dean at work in his office drawing designs.

I said Dad was an architect here in Orlando for years. He did the Saint James Church and the Orlando Sentinel, the first major building for The Sentinel.

“A new ecclesiastical look is given the downtown Orlando skyline with completion of St. James Roman Catholic Church.” March 9, 1952, Orlando Sentinel-Star, page 35, section 4, illustration caption.

All that one story stuff across the street, west of The Sentinel on Orange Art Deco kind of building just north of Firestone. He had offices in Orlando, Cocoa, and Lakeland.

Photo of Donovan Dean

Architect Donovan Dean who designed Saint James Cathedral and The Orlando Sentinel building in downtown Orlando.

He had little small offices. So I grew up here part of the time in Orlando, moved to Lakeland. We would come back and visit friends in Orlando. Friends who lived off of Winter Park Road and Corrine Drive and that was out in the country. That was way out in the country. There wasn’t anything around there. These folks, the Rices, they bought the house and built the lot for $5700. dollars. I remember that. It was amazing.

Gary’s Duck Inn

We would drive up from Lakeland, that was before I-4 was completed. It would take us three hours, three and a half hours. A lot of it was a brick road, a very narrow brick road. Some of that still exists, just south of Kissimmee… We would come into Kissimmee, mom had a favorite little spot she liked to stop. It was a drug store there that had a big soda fountain. She liked banana splits and I would get a chocolate milk shake. And that was kind of tradition with us. The other tradition we had, I loved shrimp and we would always stop at Gary’s Duck Inn on South Orange Blossom Trail. Loved that place! And the waitresses got to know me and would bring out the fried shrimp.

Morrison’s Cafeteria

I also remember here in town, Morrison’s Cafeteria. They had trout almondine with almonds and I love nuts.The trout almondine was wonderful. Well, that kind of introduces me to Orlando….

When did you join the University Club?

I opened my practice in ’74. I joined the University Club in 1974. The year I opened up, I guess. Jim Greene was my sponsor. James B. Greene of the Greeneway. Ted Bywater was my major supporter here and Bill Frangus and Bill Coleman. Gosh, there were all kinds of guys. This place, it kind of was very intimidating. It had black and white tile and Corinthian column looking stuff. Grecian murals on the walls. That wasn’t my cup of tea. We’ve gone through several renovations since then with some good and bad. The gymnasium up top, athletic second floor looks like a, the lockers look like a beat up high school locker room. Stinky. A maze of corridors, busted up rooms. But it’s been expanded and moved. This room that we’re sitting in right now was added. There’s a racquetball court above this. 

750 Members and a Waiting List

We bought property adjacent to this and squared up the property which, it was a win win for us and for the city, too. They were able to build the parking deck over here for the library and others. The club when we joined had a waiting list. We had a cap of 750 people. It’s never been up there since then. It took me a while to get accepted and move in. I got a locker and learned how to play racquetball. That was one of the things that I was amazed at. People brought you in and taught you these things and I’ve tried to continue that. To mentor not even the young guys, but the new guys, old guys, too. Hey, do you play racquetball come on up here and join us. We play a friendly doubles game. I’m too old to play singles. I’m the last of the old guys up there playing. I didn’t play in this last tournament, but I encourage the folks to come up and play and get to meet people. 

University Club of Orlando member Donovan Dean, circa 1970’s.

You come in and you sit down in the long singles table here in the dining room. That was what broke me in to coming here for lunches. Although I didn’t come here all the time. I thoroughly enjoyed those. Then there was, at this long singles table, you got to come in and sit down. The four tops were saved for clients and guests who would come in and bring in their friends. But at the singles table you got to know them. You got to know those guys and listen to some of their stories. You got to hear their war stories, and guys and their fishing trips and their hunting trips. I was never a good fisherman. I’ve been fishing with a lot of these guys. I’m a boater. I’m an explorer and a hiker and a biker. I flat know roads here in Florida. I just came back yesterday from a three day trip down to Anna Maria Island, Sarasota, and Longboat…

Tuesday Nights at the Club

So, talking about the club, you would come here for lunch? What was it like? The lunches were fun. There was a table out in the dining room that was reserved for the old guard. That was called the Peppermill Club and you kind of had to be invited to join them. But every now and then they would condescend to let young little me come in there to sit and have lunch with them. But to me the fun part of the club was after racquetball, the fun day was Tuesday. Because Tuesday night we stayed open until midnight… Tommy was, Tommy Singleton, our guy out here on the front wall was a bartender and then he became bar manager. And we had a great group of guys at the bar at the club. And we would play all kinds of games especially darts. We had a dart board up on the wall where a fish now stands, or it used to stand. And we would play darts and keep throwing darts until Tommy would throw us out. He’d say, “C’mon it’s midnight. I want to go home. Get out of here.” And he kept the dart box and he kept them all at the bar. He took them away from us and chased us away and we would go home. Tuesday nights were fun. they were just flat fun.

LISTEN Part III (20:43)


Mr. and Mrs. Dean at The University Club of Orlando Christmas Party, circa 1970s.

The University Club of Orlando Christmas Party

But the highlight of the year for the club, the social highlight, was always the Christmas Party. Man, the ladies would get all dolled up and it was a big social event. People did not want to miss that. The rooms were so crammed full you couldn’t move. We had ice carvings and food tables everywhere. Steve, our massage guy up there, was an ice carver back then. He was a waiter at the tables and he would get out a chain saw and carve ice and chip it and make these beautiful ice carvings and centerpieces for the food tables. But he’s now the resident masseuse. He is a very knowledgeable, he flat knows ligaments and muscles. And he can make you hurt and he finds immediately where your aches and pains are. And he does a great job. He’s got the strongest hands of any guy. After a workout at the bar bells or at the racquetball courts he can get the kinks out. 

Tommy Singleton, the dining room manager, Gina Jones, hostess, and Jorge Porzella, masseur.

But prior to him was Jorge, the little South American guy. “Hit the ball! Hit the ball!”  He would play racquetball with us. “Hit the ball, Mr. Dean. Hit it! Hit it!” Was he good? Yeah, he was fun. He was very quick….

Dances at The University Club

Oh, not only were the Christmas parties good, but we had other social functions here. There were dances. Mary Ann and I love to dance. Mary Ann’s my wife. And I’m a dancer. She’s a dancer. She’s a much smoother dancer than I. She’s a Latin easy going, romantic. I’m a turkey, rock and roll kind of guy. Where were the dances? We would move all the living room furniture out of the way. We would set up out there. It’s a wood floor. The dining room would be tables where they sit and have drinks and food and then go to the dance floor…. But in the living room just off the offices there were dances. And we did that several times a year. We had entertainment committees.      

The University Club Guest Speakers

We had guest speakers that would come in the reading room in there with the fireplace. Wonderful speakers. Some not so good, but a lot of them were just fascinating to learn about things that were going on here in Orlando and the world. People talking about their travels.

That’s one thing you’ll find here, you sit down at the tables and you talk to those guys and they’re always getting back from well, I climbed Kilimanjaro. Or, you know, I caught a shark off South America a big monster blue fin tuna. Absolutely fascinating travels and travails. These guys are world class guys….

Mary Ann and Donovan Dean Skiing in Switzerland.

So you and Mrs. Dean attended the events here at the club together? The dances, the Christmas parties. Did she like it? She loved it….

How has being a member of the club enriched your life?

I’m a social person. I don’t think that I could have enjoyed Orlando near as much had it not been for this club. It’s the same way with Georgia Tech. I wouldn’t have stayed at GA Tech had it not been for the fraternity. It is important to me to have these kind of contacts and friends. I mean we’re not all just bosom buddies, but we’re similar in that we’re all – well, we’re not all even like minded – we have Indians and we have chiefs – but most of these guys are A personalities. You have some head buttings now and then, generally that’s a fun group of people to be around. They’re just classy people that you see in other settings throughout the city, throughout the state. They go off and they come back and they tell you about their travels. It’s fascinating to listen to and to hear their experiences and vicariously experience them. This is as close to a fraternity as any place I’ve been.

I’ve been to the Citrus Club. I was the architect on some of the remodeling of the Citrus Club and the basement down there, the exercise room and the men’s room up top. But anyway, it’s just too stand offish. It’s fine and they do a great job. But, it’s not The University Club. It is different. I never figured out how to afford the old Country Club, but apparently we’re going to get a chance to experience that now that we’re moving locations. The Orlando Country Club has graciously accepted us as temporary guests over there during our time of construction and I think it will be a win, win for both clubs, I do. I think it will be a win, win. 

But this has been a marvelous experience to be a member of this University Club since 1974.

What do you see as the future of The University Club?

Have you looked at the plans? I have, of course, as an architect. I was not involved in any of them, but I have been out to George Powell’s office. Our interior designer lady, past president, I’ve reviewed their work. They’ve done a marvelous job. Gosh, the people who poured hours and hours into planning all this and the legal work. The time that’s been spent by the board and the members on this. I really think it’s going to come off. It’s going to be a totally different club, un-old-worldly. It will be slicker. I think a slick, contemporary feel geared more toward current trends and hopefully more inviting to the younger crew coming in. I think it will e more inviting I really do. I think it’s going to be a good thing to have happen.  

The University Club Foundation

And those activities you have now like the Cocktails for a Cause and charity events those will continue? Oh yeah, those are going to continue. They will. We do a lot of good. The University Club Foundation where we give out money to scholarships for I think it’s four, maybe five schools here. Four at least that I know of. The dinners and the talks for the students who’ve completed those scholarships and hear their stories. Wonderful. Just absolutely wonderful. And some of it’s heart rendering actually….

Do you think The University Club has added value to our community?

Oh, absolutely. Gosh, Mayor Frederick used to come down here. All the heavy hitters were here. It was just a fun group to be around. Conway Kittredge and all his doings and the judges and the attorneys that have been here. How the attorneys can come here and sit down and eat dinner next to each other after having done battle in the courts, I’ve never figured that out. It’s either this way or that way. No, attorneys can take both sides so I guess that works.

We’ve had a few architects down here, too. Alan Arthur is an architect and he was a county commissioner and he was responsible for getting the – pushing through the convention center here in Orlando. I’m glad they put it way down there. They at one time considered putting it up here in the downtown area, I’m glad that didn’t happen. But the convention center has been a major boon to this area and he was a University Club member, commissioner, part of the decision makers that put that there. And the same way with the Orlando Airport. Mayor Frederick and Glenda Hood and all those. The arena, Frederick pushed through and now it’s gone. But I watched it go up. I watched it come down. 

Gosh, I’ve seen a lot of buildings here go up and come down. The old San Juan Hotel across from The Angebilt, I mean that was a classic piece. It’s gone now…. I was an architect remodeling The Angebilt Hotel. Oh, The Angebilt is where The University Club presently here, moved from, the 10th and 11th floor of The Angebilt…

Orlando Buildings

The San Juan, I remember when the Sears building was across the street and a little further north, just south of the telephone building there. Caty corner from the St. James Church that my dad did….

Orlando was similar in size to the population of Lakeland when I graduated from high school, 40 to 45,000. Orlando was maybe 10,000 or larger in population than Lakeland. I remember Orlando prior to I-4 and prior to Disney. Orange Avenue, Magnolia, Rosalind Avenue were all two way traffic. It was a mess. But Gary’s Duck Inn on South Orange Blossom Trail, the Winter Park Road, and Corrine Drive was way out in the country. I remember the dedication of The Orlando Sentinel building because my dad was he architect on it. I attended that. Orlando had a morning and an afternoon newspaper edition.

“St. James Church Dedication Today,” March 9, 1952, Orlando Sentinel-Star, page 35, section 4.

Dedication in 1952 of the Saint James Church. I was there for that. I was there for the dedication building of the temple down there in Kissimmee. It was the first one that was done. The old historic building is still there. Dad was the architect on that… Eating lunch on the roof of The Angebilt. They had a glass enclosed atrium up there full of plants and tables and served lunches up there. 

Movie Theaters

Movie theater on the east side of 17-92 and Mills Avenue just north of Colonial Drive, there was a movie theater there. There was a movie theater on Park Avenue in Winter Park. It’s now the Pottery Barn or something. Anderson Rush, the old brick colonial office building on Central is now The Waverly condo. I did the little office building that’s just to the east of that on the corner there for Billings, Morgan, and Cunningham, remodeled that for them.

Lake Ivanhoe

I remember the water ski shows and the ski jump up on Lake Ivanhoe. Of course, I’m a skier and a boater. I remember the radio station just south of the current Chamber of Commerce on South Ivanhoe Boulevard. I remember dad’s offices were on Wall Street just south of The Angebilt. It’s now a bar or something. 

I remember the Dodge auto dealership on the south side of Colonial just west of Mama B’s and that was Benny Kent I think was his name. They lived out on Lake Fairview and when I was 10 years old I got to ski behind his great wooden Chris Craft on Lake Fairview….

Lunch Basket on the northeast corner of Magnolia and Marks Street. I remember the Lunch Basket, great little feed place. The funeral home on West Central. I think that was the Carey Hand building has something to do with Valencia Community College. Morrison’s Cafeteria I mentioned. McCrory’s five and dime store on Orange and East Pine Street, southeast corner. The Harley Hotel on Rosalind and Washington….

Downtown Orlando, Inc.

I was involved in Downtown Orlando, Inc., that was the Orlando Central Business District. DOI started Light Up Orlando and we ran that for two to three years. And then Jake Stuart with the Chamber of Commerce captured DOI and took it under his auspices, changed things.

Lake Highland

I remember the original Central Florida Blood Bank Office on the northwest corner of Highland and Marks here across from Lake Highland. The original one that’s there now. I remember the 1950’s ugly edition of the police headquarters and jail on the original courthouse that’s now where the plaza is that has the trees out there, the cypress trees. But that was ugly, that was just awful in my opinion. I remember Lake Highland Prep School….

I remember the original La Cantina Steakhouse out there across from the airport had a step, one step up, and people would trip over that on the floor. I remember Florida Sanitarium Hospital, now Florida Hospital….

LISTEN Part IV (21:42)


Parker Boat Company

I remember Parker Boat Company on north Orange Avenue. Parker Boats sponsored the Kissimmee Boat-a-cades. My dad was on the first three or four Boat-a-cades down in Kissimmee. I was too young at the time.

The original OUC building on South Orange Avenue. I remember the original Publix Supermarket over here which is now Colonial Photo and Hobby. Dad was the original architect on that. He was the architect on many of the Publix buildings.

Lake Estelle

The original alignment of Princeton at Mills, now it comes south of the civic theater. But originally it came up through the middle through the art museum and civic theater where the grass lawn is now. I remember the original museum, Schweizer did an addition to it. But it was a diagonal one story building; faced Lake Estelle over there. I remember on Lake Estelle there was a, this was when I was a kid, there was a nudist colony, on the southeast corner of Lake Estelle. Great big wall around it…. Was it really a nudist colony or was it a health center? It was a health center. But they ran around pretty undressed.

President of the Kiwanis Club

Amphitheater at the band shell at Lake Eola. The C.R. Smith Appliance store on 441. C. R. Smith was a big powerhouse in the black community over there. He was also in our Kiwanis Club. Bill Coleman and Rob Evans got me involved in Kiwanis. We met at the old downtown motel on Tuesday mornings. I became president and I was involved in that for 12 years. 

Pappy Kennedy

I remember the Beef & Bottle on Park Avenue. that was dark, dingy… but it was a neat little – it was right across from our church Saint Margaret Mary. But anyway, Pappy Kennedy was a black waiter and he was also our first black city commissioner in Orlando. Everybody knew Pappy.

I remember Harper’s Tavern and dance floor and the bands and Le Cordon Bleu Restaurant in Winter Park, neat little back dance room bar. The original Claude Wolfe Appliance Store here on Orange Avenue. And the Sears building on Orange and Jefferson. The Hotel San Juan I mentioned. The pharmacy and drug store south of St. James [Cathedral] I can remember. It was a pharmacy and people would go in there for breakfast.

Denmark Sporting Goods

The Keller Music Company building gone now and the church on West Jefferson. Near the church right behind it was Denmark Sporting Goods, just down the hill from it. Denmarks was wonderful. It was a great big sporting goods. Everybody went there. And they had a basement and a little guy down there would fix your reels and tell you all about how to repair guns. That’s where you took all your supplies and he fixed them all. Don Wright bought that building. He’s an attorney and chased Denmarks out. Don was my neighbor in Winter Park. He’s been down here many times. I don’t know that he’s ever been a member here, at least not now.

George Stuart

Mills and Nebraska Lumber Company on 17-92. The Shell Gas Station on the northwest corner of Fairbanks and Park Avenue. It’s now a 7-11. Mercedes dealership on the southwest corner of Fairbanks and Park Avenue. The boat ramp on the north side of Lake Formosa near the Orlando Teen Center. I remember that. We got the boat in there. The stucco and tabby house on the southeast corner of Amelia and Magnolia which was one of the first locations of The University Club…. The original Boy Scout office building on Nebraska now Florida Heart Center. The original Girl Scout office building in Winter Park. The George Stuart Office building on the north side of Eola.

George Stuart Office Supply at the intersection of Robinson Street and Rosalind Avenue

It’s now a gym [The Downtown Gym]. I remember George Stuart. He was going to be a big politician. His brother, big brother was a Little League umpire when I was a Little League coach at Audubon Park. And this Stuart was such an empathetic guy. He would call balls and strikes as an umpire from behind plate. And when a throw down was coming from third to home he would grab the batter and shield him and pull him out of the way and call the runner either safe or out, but he would protect the batter.

Florida Tech University, FTU, now UCF, it was FTU when I moved here. Orlando Science Center now the Lowndes Shakespeare Theater… The original Amway basketball arena. The original Bob Carr auditorium with interior columns and a flat floor. And they cow shows in there. Oh yeah, they’d show their pet cows. PESO, Participation Enriches Science Music and Arts Organization, my wife and I were involved in that early on. It’s a precursor to United Arts. What would have been the time period for PESO? Would that have been in the eighties? Yes, late seventies, early eighties. Yes, it would have….

City Hall Imploded

I remember the original Coral Gables Federal. The original cylindrical round glass building. And I remember the night that City Hall was imploded and Danny Glover and Mel Gibson came running out of the building as the building was exploding and imploding. We were in a tower probably where The Bohemian Restaurant Hotel is now. It was an office building. We sat up there and it was 2:30 a.m.. It was scheduled for earlier in the evening, but they had to redo a bunch of stuff to get things right and they had to bring the spray tank in and spray the streets down and make it look wet and raining. Man, when it went – the building just sat there in a smoke pile. It took 7 1/2 seconds to be down, but it took 20 minutes for the smoke to clear away….

Community Leadership

I was assistant and scout master for years. Kiwanis Club for 12 years. Little League Coach. Florida Planning and Zoning Association President. Orlando Beautification Board. Orlando Historic Preservation Board. I served on the Downtown Orlando Inc. Board, DOI. Downtown Orlando Development Board. Orlando Housing Authority for eight years. I was president for those years. Followed Mel Martinez, he was president before me, two years before me. And he now lives on the lake with me over there on Lake Sue. Neat guy. Leadership Council. Orlando Leadership Council in ’83. Orlando Leadership was wonderful. You got to see the workings of Orlando. And I don’t know whose idea it was, but it was a great experience….

It sounds to me like you have done so much for our community in terms of leadership, and contribution, and service… Are most of the members of The University Club active in these various civic and service organizations?

A lot of guys are. They really are. And then there are a lot of guys who just like in any organization are going to be. But, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed working with people and seeing how things run and exploring and doing things. I never considered myself much of – anyway, there are a lot heavier hitters here in the club than me. I’m a piker compared to some of these guys, gee whiz….

You’ve been a part of the historic preservation, downtown development… so now when you look at our Orlando landscape what do you see?

I think this is a good thing. We grew a little too fast in my opinion. Disney was a major, but before Disney was Martin. I mean we had Martin here we had, the Navy was here. Orlando couldn’t have done it well without Disney, but Disney just exploded everything of course. And it’s good. People have discovered Central Florida and come here. I love Florida. I love Central Florida and water and boating.

Donovan Dean and his wife, Mary Ann Dean, enjoy boating on Florida’s waterways.

Mr. and Mrs. Dean relaxing in their backyard.

But I don’t want to live on the coast. I want to be in where it’s green and lush. It’s home…. When I saw all the rivers and waters the first thing we did when we got here, we rented a house and bought a boat. We bought a boat on Lake Mizell from a college professor sold it. He took us through the Winter Park chain of lakes on the boat and sold me!

“The Venice of America” scenic boat rides on the Winter Park chain of lakes started January 1, 1938 by W.C. Meloon, founder of Correct Craft boats.The rides featured Correct Craft boats offering beautiful views of the waterways.

Bam! I gotta have it… I still take people. We’ve got friends all over that come from France and Pittsburgh, anyway we always take them to the Winter Park chain, stick them in a boat. “Gosh, I didn’t know that this existed. Only thing I knew about Orlando was Disney.” Well, this is Central Florida guys. Come here, look, see….

Donovan Dean boating in Central Florida.

If there was someone that you could thank from anytime period who would it be?

Well, my folks to begin with. Who else? Well, I’d like to thank the priest up in New York who convinced my wife that she could marry me. Who else would I thank. Well, a lot of people, actually. All the guys that have been so good to me down here. People in business, contractors I met. My flying instructor. My riding buddies, my boating buddies. Mom, I guess, mom just sitting me down and saying you need to think about this now. I still draw. I’m an artist, but, you know, it’s vicarious and I do it for pleasure. And, isn’t it wonderful to see, like you named St. James Cathedral, that’s still such an important part of the Orlando landscape, to know that your dad built it.

Saint James Cathedral

Yeah, my dad did it. He was the architect. We traveled all over the country when I was, the summer between 8th and 9th grade, mom and dad took me on a driving trip through all the states east of the Mississippi up into Canada looking at churches. We studied churches. We stopped everywhere looking at these big cathedrals and dad came back, that was in ’49 and in ’52 the dedication of the church here. [Saint James Cathedral Church] It was one of the first churches in Florida, Catholic churches, that had a sloping floor.

Saint James Catholic Cathedral in downtown Orlando, 1999 photo.

But dad did over a hundred religious facilities, oh yeah, churches, and manses. San Pedro Camp, I worked on that. Camp Good Counsel, the summer camp for kids in Inverness. He did that. That’s where I learned how to waterski was at that camp on Lake Tsala started.

Who else would I thank? Well, Jim Green bless his heart. He had faith in me. He’s the one that signed you up at the club and got you started? He did. But we had just met through some other organizations and became friends. Ted Bywater and I finished high school together over in Lakeland. He was a member here for ions. He’s a realtor here in town. Still with us. He was a fraternity brother of mine and was always a big part of my life….

Interview:  Donovan Dean

Interviewer:  Jane Tracy

Date:  June 23, 2016

Place:  The University Club of Orlando


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Downtown Orlando, Inc. Membership Directory, 1986

Downtown Orlando, Inc. Membership Directory cover for 1986. Courtesy of the Donovan Dean Archives

Childhood Photo of Orlando Architect Donovan Dean

Orlando native Donovan Dean describes his memories of his childhood home in College Park in this excerpt from an oral history interview...

Donovan Dean, Navy Officer Corps of the Civil Engineers

1964 photo of Orlando native Donovan Dean serving in the United States Navy Civil Engineer Corps. Listen as the architect describes his early...

The Dean Family at Scout Camp

Architect Donovan Dean with his wife, Mary Ann Dean, and their two children, Patrick Donovan Dean, Junior, right side, and Gregory Lee...

Donovan Dean Boating in Florida

Architect Donovan Dean boating in Florida. Listen as the Orlando native describes his joy of boating on Florida's waterways in this excerpt...

Donovan and Mary Ann Dean Boating on Florida's Waterways

Architect Donovan Dean and his wife, Mary Ann Dean, enjoy boating on Florida's waterways. Listen as the Orlando native describes the couple's leisure...

Architect Donovan Dean

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Architect Donovan Dean

Architect Donovan Dean describes his Central Florida office in this excerpt from an oral history interview at The University Club of Orlando...

Mrs. Mary Ann Dean on her Wedding Day

Architect Donovan Dean and his wife, arts organizer, Mary Ann Dean, met when they were college students at Georgia Tech and Agnes...

Donovan Dean High School Photo

High school photo of Orlando native Donovan Dean. Listen as he describes his high school activities in this excerpt from an oral history...

Mr. and Mrs. Donovan Dean Celebrate Christmas

Architect Donovan Dean and his wife, Mary Ann Dean, celebrate Christmas with friends at The University Club of Orlando Annual Christmas Party,...

Mrs. Marian Dean

Mrs. Marian Dean, wife of Florida architect, Donovan Dean, who designed Saint James Cathedral, and hundreds of churches throughout the state. Mr....

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Mr. Donovan Dean, University Club of Orlando Oral History Interview, Part I

Oral history interview with Mr. Donovan Dean at The University Club of Orlando, June 23, 2016.

Mr. Donovan Dean, University Club of Orlando Oral History Interview, Part II

Oral history interview with Mr. Donovan Dean at The University Club of Orlando, June 23, 2016.

Mr. Donovan Dean, University Club of Orlando Oral History Interview, Part IV

Oral history interview with Mr. Donovan Dean at The University Club of Orlando, June 23, 2016.

Mr. Donovan Dean, University Club of Orlando Oral History Interview, Part III

Oral history interview with Mr. Donovan Dean at The University Club of Orlando, June 23, 2016.

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