Investment is a critical factor in retaining old buildings.
As they say, it’s about the money. The preservation of Ormond Beach history has always depended on private or public money … either the hopes of return on investment, or the desire to preserve history.
Across the street from each other, the Casements and the Ormond Heritage Condominium have much in common but different stories to tell.
The Casements was on its last legs in the 1960s. Private owners planned to tear it down and build a condominum, but they met strong opposition from the concerned citizens. The group got the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, unbeknownst to the owners, according to documents available in The Casements records office.
Because of their work, the building was purchased by the city in 1974 for $500,000. The building was later restored, thanks to a grant for $449,000 from the Department of Commerce. The rest, as they say, is “history,” with The Casements now being an important cultural center for the area.
The old Ormond Hotel ended differently. Built by John Anderson and J. D. Price, the hotel opened in 1888 and was later purchased by railroad magnate Henry Flagler.
Through a succession of owners and uses, the structure deteriorated until 1986, when the city of Ormond Beach ordered the building evacuated, believing it to be hazardous to residents, according to historic documents provided by The Casements. No one stepped forward to purchase the hotel, and invest enough money to fix it up, and it was finally demolished in 1992 to make way for the Ormond Heritage Condominiums.
Several buildings, primarily on the west side of the Granada Bridge, have been saved and restored, thanks to Ormond Beach businessman Bill Jones.
The historic Ormond Beach Fire House, 160 E. Granada Blvd., a 1937 Works Progress Administration project, is an example of private investment. Owners spent $500,000 refurbishing the structure and had it placed on the National Historic Register, which allowed tax credits.
Some hotspots now exist only in residents’ memories
Sometimes popular spots for locals become old, dated and too expensive to modernize and never get a chance to become historic.
The Happy Whale restaurant, motel and condo, located where Al Weeks Northshore Park is today in Ormond-by-the-Sea, was a popular landmark for 20 years, until it started to deteriorate after the pier was damaged by a nor’easter in 1984. A succession of owners followed, including periods of neglect and lawsuits, and the structure was demolished in 2001 by Volusia County after being deemed an eyesore. The good news is the public enjoys access to the beach since the park with 100 parking spaces was built in 2010.
Not historic, but certainly a local landmark, is Julian’s Restaurant, 88 S. Atlantic Ave., built in 1967. It is set to be demolished in the near future. It was recently purchased by L. Gale Lemerand, owner of several restaurant chains, for $995,000.
The distinctive, steeply-pitched roof in front was well-known to generations and the restaurant was “the” place to go, particularly for seniors in the 1990s.
Lemerand said that people in the construction business have told him it would be too expensive to remodel because of the age and deteriorated condition.
He noted that the building has been empty and unused for several years.
“I’ve been here since 1978 so I remember the heyday,” he said. “If I could preserve it I would. The customers, employees and building all got old together.”
For now, he plans to use the space for much-needed parking for his nearby Stonewood Restaurant.
Eventually, he will develop the property into some type of commercial usage.
“That’s a pretty expensive parking lot,” he said.
Some history will be preserved, however. Lemerand said some local people have expressed interest in memorabilia inside the building, such as pieces of Cuban art.