Leanne should know all about his careful hoarding of these artifacts as she grew up in Dean's homestead at 203 E Rich surrounded by her father's "finds." Whenever Dean heard that another old structure in the area was succumbing to "progress," Dean was right there to buy the materials and truck them off to his corner of the world.
Over the years his treasure trove grew to encompass 211 E Rich adjacent to Dean's home. Heart-of-pine beams stacked high, frame doors with floating panels, windows with hand-made glass, molding, minute architectural details piled from floor to ceiling found their way to Dean's two houses to sit until they could be used in another project. As the years passed Dean's salvaged acquisitions covered both yards of the houses, trees and shrubs surrounded the buildings until eventually a bypasser along Rich or Alabama had no idea that those two houses were even inhabited.
Dean, a former city council member and formidable foe of anyone who said anything negative about DeLand, passed on his admiration for the quality of architectural workmanship that has all but disappeared from America. When Dean fell ill a few years ago his daughter faced the daunting task of setting her father's houses in order. Not wanting to send Dean's life-long accumulation of building materials to the dump, she called several restoration specialists to ask if they wanted to go on a treasure hunt. Some material was taken for reuse, other items termite ridden and too rotten to use were tossed. What Leanne wound up with was enough original items to restore the two old houses on the northeast corner of Rich and Alabama.
And restore Leanne did. Without having to use much in the way of new building material, Leanne Smith turned what once was an eyesore into the magnificent sight we have today. The by-gone days when frame houses were constructed out of materials now no long obtainable show a workmanship to be envied and admired.
Says Leanne, "It never occurred to my dad to tear down a building. He relished the bubbled window panes, the lathe and plaster technique, the wide plank floors. That quality of workmanship and material can't be replicated. My dad appreciated quality and so do I."
Leanne has, through her dad's perseverance in saving a part of our architectural past, given back to the city of DeLand two extraordinary gifts, 203 and 211 E Rich, law office for her firm and another attorney's. Rewired, re-plumbed, and painstakingly restored down to the dust collectors on the magnificent staircase, 211 sports its original tin roof.
"There's a feeling you get from living or working in these old places," reflects Leanne, "a feeling you simply don't get in a new building."