Memorial to 9/11 Firefighter Eugene Whelan Located at Gemini Springs

eugene whelan marker
Memorial located at Gemini Springs in DeBary, FL. Photo: Robert Redd
eugene.whelan image cnn
Firefighter Eugene Michael Whelan Photo: CNN

This memorial to fire fighter Eugene Whelan, who perished as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, is located at Gemini Springs in DeBary, FL.





      Dedicated with love to

                                                          F.F. Eugene Whelan                                                            Engine Co. 230 FDNY

On September 11, 2001, Eugene was among the hundreds of rescue workers who responded to the terrorist attack upon the World Trade Center in New York City. Sadly for his family in NY and here locally in Volusia County, he never returned home. Although too many lives were tragically cut short that day, amazingly, more than 20,000 people were saved as a result of the immediate mobilization of the NYFD. In planting this tree, we honor the countless acts of selflessness and determination demonstrated by them that day, and the supreme sacrifice made by 343 of their brothers.

We Will Never Forget

Share the Heritage–Daytona Beach African American Cultural Sites Brochure

If you are in, or will be visiting, the Daytona Beach and Volusia County area and are interested in African American history you won’t want to miss out on this free brochure titled Daytona Beach Area Share the Heritage: A Guide to African-American Cultural and Historical Sites. The brochure features 18 sites, giving a brief background, location, phone number, and website if available. Sites include Bethune Cookman University, the Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum, Howard Thurman House, Jackie Robinson Ballpark, and many others. The brochure may be viewed online or downloaded by visiting this website. It is well worth taking a look as some of these locations aren’t so well known.

El Real Retiro Sold in 1947

Continuing on a post from last year we now move to 1947 and find that the New Smyrna Beach luxury home El Real Retiro has been sold.

El Real Retiro Sold by Vogts to Burnhams

New Smyrna Beach News Friday, April 4, 1947

One of New Smyrna Beach’s show places changed hands recently when the spacious home formerly known as El Real Retiro was sold to Col. and Mrs. Clifford Burnham of Ponte Verda Beach by Mr. and Mrs. H. Otto Vogt of Thomaston, Conn., and New Smyrna Beach. Col. Burnham served on General Marshall’s Staff during World War II.

Mr. and Mrs. Burnham plan to become year-around residents of New Smyrna Beach.

Mr. and Mrs. Vogt, who own extensive properties in New Smyrna Beach including the former bank building which is now occupied by their Eclipse Glass Co., purchased the beautiful home from Mr. and Mrs. L. J. Gumpert a few years ago. The property is from Faulkner to South Riverside in the six hundred block, and was originally owned by Robert Handley, who sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Dick Bristley who gave it the name El Real Retiro.

Kreis Real Estate Co., handled the recent sale.

World War I Centennial Event in Geneva, FL

Press release from the Geneva Historical & Genealogical Society:

leinster-colour-40~ Oct. 10, Wed. – Come to a WWI Centennial Memorial for Perry Taylor of Geneva and the other 500+ who died on the RMS Leinster in the Irish Sea on Oct. 10, 1918, when it was hit by 3 German torpedoes just before the end of WWI. Memorials are being held in Ireland and other Allied countries on the same day. Most of those killed were military young men and women. It is at 2:00 PM, in Geneva Cemetery, Cemetery Road, off 1st Street. Come honor those who died as well as our military men and women from WWI buried in Geneva. We are the only U.S. community having the Memorial for the 6 U.S. soldiers who drowned.

Art in Public Places–DeLand, Florida

Art is all around us. Some cities are enthusiastic supporters of public art and work to make sure their landscapes are enhanced with art, whether it be murals, sculptures, or other types. The city of DeLand, Florida is one of those cities.

Take a look at this page hosted by Maintstreet DeLand to review an amazing series of murals that can be found throughout the city. Here is an interesting look at Florida and DeLand history on the sides of local businesses. Also included in the listing is a page showcasing a series of plaques recognizing historical buildings. You can learn a lot about early DeLand history by taking this walk.

If you are more interested in sculpture how about taking the DeLand Sculpture Walk, available through the Museum of Art—DeLand. My personal favorite is American Dog, by Dale Rogers, that is located at the fire station. On this page you can also learn about the DeLand Utility Box Art Project, which is an innovative way to disguise the rather ugly utility boxes that dot modern American streets.

No matter where you live or visit, keep your eyes open. There is wonderful public art available for your viewing pleasure. Some is traditional, some is modern, a lot of it is just plain funky. It’s up to you to find and enjoy it.

Have a favorite piece of public art? Share it with us by commenting.

Rufus Pinkney Mural Unveiled in DeLand

RufusWe all live somewhere; whether it be a town, village, or city; urban or rural, small town or giant metropolis. What makes it home though is a sense of community. Men like Rufus Pinkney are what makes a community.

You don’t know who Rufus Pinkney was? Well you must not have lived in DeLand, Florida at any time for the past sixty odd years. Rufus was an institution in the downtown area. Even if you didn’t know his name you knew who he was. He was a local legend. Was he a sports star? Was he a political figure or a prominent banker or lawyer? No. Mr. Pinkney shined shoes. That’s right. He shined shoes and he was a more beloved representative of small town community than any sports star could be.

Rufus was born June 12, 1932 in Palatka to parents Pearl and Rufus Pinkney. As a child the family moved to Miami before Rufus left south Florida, ending up in Mississippi where he met his future wife, Mary Louise Gray. Rufus and Mary had two children; a daughter Sharon and a son, also named Rufus.

Pinkney operated his shoe shine business out of a small building located in the parkingRufus 2 lot near 127 E. New York Avenue. Here, according to a Daytona Beach News-Journal article “…is a jumble of polishes, brushes, calendars, shelves of gleaming shoes, and more signs. One praises him as the “Master Engineer in Charge of Preserving the Primary Means of Personal Locomotion,’ and a bulletin board [was] thickly thumbtacked with business cards.” His shop was most recently adorned with a sign painted by Stephen Danko showing an alligator shoe with the words “Shoes Shined by Rufus”. Mark Lane of the News-Journal reports that Pinkney had shined shoes in Deland since 1955 and before that in St. Augustine at the old railroad station.

In addition to his skill at shining shoes, Rufus was a well-known local harmonica player and received the gift of being a great conversationalist. He was an elder at Greater Refuge Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. When you saw him he was always dressed well and of course his shoes were never scuffed.

Rufus passed away September 12, 2016 after suffering a stroke. In his 84 years though he touched many lives. Personally, I can remember Rufus from back in the late 1980’s and early 90’s when I worked in downtown DeLand. He used to always stop in for his daily coffee. Sometimes more than once a day would we see him. He never really lingered long though he was always pleasant and had a smile and kind word for everyone. He couldn’t linger because he was busy. He had to get back to the shop and take care of business.

Recently the City of DeLand unveiled a mural in Mr. Pinkey’s honor near where his popular shoe shine stand used to be. It is only fitting that he be remembered in this way. Please read more about the mural unveiling and see several photos here.

El Real Retiro: One of Florida’s Finest Homes

Published 90 years ago today in the New Smyrna Daily News.

El Real Retiro One of Florida’s Finest Homes
New Smyrna Daily News June 8, 1928

New Smyrna El Retiro03.jpgOn the shores of the Indian River at New Smyrna, nestling in a beautiful palm grove with numerous varieties of other beautiful trees and shrubs, will be found one of the most picturesque homes in Florida, in fact one of Florida’s show places.

The house of Spanish architecture, was recently built by Robert Handley, who lavished great wealth as well as though in the construction and furnishing of this unique home, all of which is quite in keeping with its beautiful natural surroundings.

The house, which is over 200 feet in length, is constructed of heavy timber with stucco finish and an imported Spanish tile roof which lends immensely to the artistic beauty of the whole.

The interior of the rooms on the south section are tinted stucco finish all having hardwood floors, while those in the north wing are finished with pecky cypress having beamed ceilings and brick floors.

The music room is 60 feet long and 26 feet wide and is furnished with costly antiques and oriental rugs.

In our sauntering through the house we might possibly start in the bedrooms which are all spacious and beautifully furnished. Each room has a connecting bath. The windows are all casement type and each room looks out either over the beautiful front lawn with snatched glimpses of the river beyond, or on the picturesque patio which we will enter later.

The reception and writing rooms were illustrated and described in Vogue Magazine recently as follows: “The writing room in the new home of Robert Handley, Esq., brings exotic flavor of far off lands and untraveled seas with its pecky cypress walls painted lime green, rubbed with lemon yellow and decorated with lime green designs. The pilasters are all white rubbed with faint touches of yellow, blue, and green. The pottery and the Kashmir embroidered felt rugs repeat the color notes.

“The Arabian Nights, with all their glory, contained no more shimmering sight than a passage way of silver. The artist has prepared one room in Chinese silver and painted an intricate design of flowers and foliage, and the color scheme ranges from white through a full scale of green with touches of flame and pink. The floor is in moss green and the woodwork in green-black.”

We descend from the silver room down a slightly winding stone staircase of four steps, into the spacious dining room which is finished in gray stone and is on a level with the patio adjoining. The exquisite antique furniture of this room came from Spain, Italy, and England, some of it being centuries old.

There are two other similar winding staircases leading into this beautiful room, one from the patio itself at the south end of the room and the other from the butler’s service room at the west side, the stairs from the silver room being at the east side.

The paintings on the walls of the library by Robert Locher were illustrated and described in the 1925 issue of the House and Garden Magazine as follows:

“The library shown on these pages with its decorative painted wall and interesting woodwork, is in the home of Robert Handley, Esq., at New Smyrna, Florida. The panoramic design shows important incidents in the history of this section of Florida. One scene is the passing of the first southbound steamer. The contrast to the picturesque sailing ships above (illustrated) a present day ocean liner and a scene of a modern Florida beach. Florida in the 16th century, the time of the landing of Ponce de Leon furnished the inspiration for the designs around the fireplace.

The most decorative of the shipping episodes is the landing of Ponce de Leon. The figures, tropical foliage, and Spanish galleon are in various colors against a brilliant blue background. The view of the library (illustrated) shows the effective beamed ceilings. This and the trim are of cypress colored by a thin wash of blue-green.”

The entire house is abundantly supplied with costly and exquisite tapestries, oriental rugs, antiques, and vases brought from Europe and the Orient. The servants’ quarters and garage are built on the same Spanish type north of the house. The Faulkner Street side of the property has a nine foot stucco wall extending 344 feet across the length of the property. The front of the house faces the Indian River.

The front veranda, in accordance with the Spanish architecture, is roofless, the music room previously described, opening on to it with three sliding French doors. The north and south wings adjoin this piazza, the latter also, opening on to it with a French door.

The trees, oleanders, palms, bamboos, and other beautiful products of Florida, make a bower of beauty of the front yard with the glimpses of the serene old Indian River to be seen through their branches, and at night the stars twinkling overhead making a veritable dreamland of the entire place.

One of the most attractive points of interest is the beautiful patio about 60 feet square and surrounded by a ten foot stucco wall which adjoins the house. The shrubbery, statuary, and tiled walks under the canopy of spreading branches of the majestic oaks and palms with their hanging moss, make one feel that he is in Paradise, especially on a moonlight night.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Dick Bristley and daughter Genevieve, en route to Palm Beach last January, stopping here to pay a few days visit with friends. So impressed were they with New Smyrna and the climate that they decided to remain the balance of the winder. A few weeks later Mr. Bristley called to see the Handley home of which he had heard so much. As a result negotiations followed and the ownership and title in the Handley estate and its furnishings were transferred to Mr. Bristley.

Many improvements have been made since the new owners have taken possession, and it is their intention to make this their permanent winter home.

Mr. Bristley is a retired official of the Royal Baking Power Company of New York. The significance thereof was the dedication of this home March 15th, at their housewarming as “El Real Retiro” which is Spanish for “The Royal Retreat.”

Effort Afloat to Bring Back the Jantzen Girl


Jantzen Girl
The Jantzen Girl hanging at the entrance to Stamie’s Smart Beach Wear

Since 1965 Daytona Beach has served as home to one of only six, twenty foot fiberglass Jantzen Girl statues. The statue/sign was a fixture outside of Stamie’s Smart Beach Wear since arriving from Miami. That all changed recently when the store located along the recently renovated boardwalk area closed with the retirement of second generation owner Irene Koutouzis.

The sign was never owned by the Koutouzis family but rather was still owned by Jantzen who has taken possession of the landmark piece with an apparent goal of rehoming it. The relocation will come with a price.

Despite a complete makeover in 2004 and regular coats of wax, recent hurricanes and the realities of being near the ocean will require over $10,000 worth of work according to building owner Louie Louizes.

Jantzen was formed in 1910 by co-owners John A. Zehntbauer and Carl C. Jantzen and was known as the Portland Knitting Co. By 1913 they were crafting bathing suits for the Portland Rowing Club and in 1918 the company name was changed to Jantzen Knitting Mills.

With business expanding in the 1920s a national marketing gimmick was needed. In stepped artists Frank and Florenz Clark who became inspired by Olympic tryouts for the 1920 women’s dive team. The red clad diving girl was born!

Throughout the years the image has evolved and in 1959 six of the fiberglass sculptures were created by a Los Angeles mannequin company, of which four are known to still be in existence. I am assuming two are in possession of Jantzen after having been in other, now closed, locations. A third is used for promotional displays in various stores selling Jantzen products. The Daytona Beach Jantzen girl, the last to be on display in a regular home, is currently in Washington state where the statue is receiving a complete restoration while plans for its future are decided.

Will that future include Daytona Beach? Maybe. Jantzen is currently weighing its options but is closely following the groundswell of support that Daytona Beach residents and visitors are showing. Support such as that shown at a new Facebook page “Bring Back the Jantzen Girl” can do nothing but help. And if by chance the statue goes elsewhere a page like this is a great historical record. If you have photos or memories of the Jantzen Girl please feel free to share them here in the comments section.

Perry Ellis International is the owner of Jantzen, having acquired the company in 2001.