BEACON PHOTO/NOAH HERTZ
LANDSCAPING PROJECT — Bare dirt remains Jan. 11 where three homes once stood on Bert Fish Drive. Stetson University plans to develop the area as “green space.”

After the DeLand City Commission approved the demolition of three historic buildings — against the recommendation of the city’s Historic Preservation Board — the Historic Preservation Board wants more of a say, and more resources.

In early November, DeLand’s seven-member Historic Preservation Board voted 5-1 to recommend against allowing Stetson University to tear down three 100-year-old homes on Bert Fish Drive.

Two weeks later, on Nov. 21, 2022, the DeLand City Commission unanimously approved the demolitions — with next to no discussion.

When the Historic Preservation Board next met on Jan. 5, Board Member Charles Jordan had one question: What gives?

“We need to do business differently here,” Jordan said to the rest of the board. The Historic Preservation Board consists of seven volunteers who are appointed by the DeLand City Commission. The board makes advisory decisions in many cases, which can be overruled by the City Commission.

The DeLand City Commission has the final say in allowing the demolition of historic buildings, after being advised of the Historic Preservation Board’s recommendation. When Stetson University came to the board with a request to demolish the three properties at 601, 609 and 611 Bert Fish Drive on Stetson University’s campus, the Historic Preservation Board wasn’t having it.

The university had no immediate plans for the land occupied by the aging homes, and the historic board wasn’t interested in the university’s reasoning for demolishing the buildings.

But one month later, when it was the DeLand City Commission’s turn, the four city commissioners who could vote unanimously approved the demolitions with next to no discussion. Mayor Chris Cloudman recused himself because of the relationship between his employer, Cenergistic, and Stetson University.

When City Commissioner Jessica Davis asked why the university wanted to demolish the buildings if there were no major problems with them, university Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Scott Thacker explained: “No immediate use for this property other than informal green space” for students.

That was one reason why the Historic Preservation Board recommended against allowing Stetson to demolish the buildings.

The conflict inspired a request for some changes.

Members of the Historic Preservation Board want the city to give them a bigger budget for preservation, and a dedicated staff member who can live and breathe preservation.

“This is why I’m really trying to sound the alarm bell here,” Jordan said at the board’s Jan. 5 meeting. “If we want DeLand to be an Orlando suburb, fine, we’re wasting our time. But I don’t think that’s what we’re about.”

To solidify what the board plans to ask of the City of DeLand — as city officials begin work on next year’s budget — the Historic Preservation Board has scheduled a workshop for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, in the Technical Review Committee room in DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. The meeting is open to the public.


The three structures

Stetson University well-documented its case for the three aging homes it demolished.

Scott Thacker, Stetson’s associate vice president for facilities management, said the buildings would cost too much to repair.

“It’s not a good use of the university’s limited funds to invest money in these properties that are not usable by the university to further the educational mission of the university,” Thacker said.

He continued, “They’re in a state where to continue to utilize them they would require a fair amount of repair and renewal dollars to continue to operate them.”

In addition to other repairs, the buildings would need to be rewired before they could be used, he said.

DeLand-area historic-preservation advocates Mark Shuttleworth and Sidney Johnston said the buildings wouldn’t be worth the time and effort to preserve.

“Some buildings are really, truly worth preserving,” Shuttleworth told the Historic Preservation Board, “but I can tell you my heart’s not into saving these buildings because there’s just really, truly isn’t that much there. I really do believe that Stetson’s being pretty honest in talking about the exorbitant cost of putting them back into limited use compared to possibilities in the future.”

Johnston agreed. In the fight for historic preservation, he said, you have to pick your battles.

“As far as I’m concerned, these aren’t worth it,” Johnston said. While the three homes were deemed historically insignificant, each building had a well-documented lifetime.

609 Bert Fish Drive

PHOTO COURTESY STETSON UNIVERSITY
609 Bert Fish Drive

This one-and-a-half-story wood-frame home, was built around 1927. Little documentation exists in the city’s records about the first owners, E.W. and Catherine Ames, but the second owners, Moses A. and Fannie Berman, were DeLand staples in the first half of the 20th century.

The couple moved to DeLand in 1932 after they were married in Atlanta. Moses Berman operated the Frances Shoppe — named for his wife — a women’s clothing store in Downtown DeLand.

Berman ran the Frances Shoppe for 20 years, but after he shut it down he worked as the advertising manager for the DeLand Sun News. Berman was also the president of the DeLand Kiwanis Club and a member of the DeLand Jewish Center and DeLand Shriners Club.

A later owner of the home was Florence A. Larimore, a Boston Avenue School teacher, who was joined by her Arkansas-native parents Charles Wesley and Idella L. Larimore. Florence Larimore’s sister, Della May Larimore, later moved in with the family, and she was well-connected throughout DeLand.

Della May Larimore worked at the Stetson University library, and she was a member of the DeLand Chapter of the American Association of University Women, the Ladies Auxiliary of Fish Memorial Hospital and First United Methodist Church.

The Larimore home was often used to host meetings of the Amelia Leete Circle and the Wesleyan Circle of the Methodist Church.

In 1997, Florence Larimore, then retired, sold her home to Stetson University for $55,000. For a time, the university used the house as office space for career services and the Center for Community Engagement.

601 Bert Fish Drive

PHOTO COURTESY STETSON UNIVERSITY
601 Bert Fish Drive

601 Bert Fish Drive, a one-and a-half-story wood-frame home, was built in 1927 as a private residence for L.C. and E.D. Bunnell. Documentation prepared by Johnston, working for Stetson University, showed that L.C. Bunnell was involved in “citywide campaigns to support physical education and the DeLand YMCA.”

The Bunnells sold the home in the late 1920s, and it was purchased by J.J. and Ola Crume in 1930. In the early 1930s, J.J. Crume founded the Crume Motor Co., which got its start selling cars from the Conrad Buildings in Downtown DeLand.

Among the home’s other owners was John Charles Otgen, a New York native who moved to DeLand with his family and tried his hand at selling pharmaceutical products as the Kayda-Cium Co. of DeLand.

Kayda-Cium’s main product was its namesake, Kayda-Cium, an antacid powder. From Johnston’s report, “The patent medicine consisted of carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium oxide, distaste of malt and peppermint oil. It remains unclear the extent to which the Otgens marketed their product.”

Kayda-Cium ultimately failed to take off, but Otgen had his hands busy with other endeavors, like maintaining responsibility for an air-raid siren installed at the corner of what is now Bert Fish Drive and Florence Avenue during World War II.

611 Bert Fish Drive

PHOTO COURTESY STETSON UNIVERSITY
611 Bert Fish Drive

Like its neighboring structures, 611 Bert Fish Drive, then 611 Hayden Ave., was a one and-a-half-story wood-frame home built around 1927.

Among the home’s occupants was Stetson University law professor Jennis W. Futch and his wife, Daisy Futch, who lived in the building through the end of the 1920s until around 1938.

In addition to teaching at Stetson, Jennis Futch was the chair of First Baptist Church’s board of trustees, the recording secretary of the Florida Historical Society and a partner in a local law firm.

In the 1940s, New Yorkers Augustus E. and Mary Louise Pasman lived in the home. Their daughter Margaret Pasman, per city records, married Charles W. Florence Jr., a West Point graduate who served under Gen. George Patton in World War II and eventually rose to the rank of chief of staff of the quartermaster at Fort Lee in Virginia.


History of the Historic Board
The seven-member DeLand Historic Preservation board is made up currently of Charles Jordan, Renee Garrison, Scott Price, Solomon Greene, Reggie Santilli, Dagny Robertson and Ross Janke.

All but three of the members must live in the city of DeLand and one must be a registered architect, if possible.

The board’s duties include:
■ “Review and recommend the designation of sites, buildings, structures, objects, and districts, both public and private, as historically or architecturally significant.”
■ “Advise property owners and local governmental agencies concerning the proper protection, maintenance, enhancement, and preservation of cultural resources.”
■ “Develop programs to stimulate public interest in urban neighborhood conservation, to participate in the adaptation of existing codes, ordinances, procedures, and programs to reflect urban neighborhood conservation policies and goals.

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