Putnam Hotel DeLand

Architect’s Rendering of Putnam Hotel, DeLand, FL

  Our blog this week is about one of Wm. J. Carpenter’s most recognized buildings, at least in DeLand, Florida.  Just off Woodland Boulevard at 255 West New York Avenue, the Putnam Hotel was built at the beginning of the Florida boom, and became the gathering place for many of the entrepreneurs and the tourists and celebrities who gathered around them.  Notable among them were Bert Fish, minister to Egypt, “Johnny”, the perpetrator of the “Call for Phillip Morris” slogan, who entertained the guests every night with the famous call, Earl Brown, designer of the 1939 World’s Fair Florida Exhibition, and actors and actresses appearing at the next door Athens Theater.

 An older Putnam Inn had long been a winter gathering place of northern tourists, but after a disastrous fire which destroyed the popular wooden Inn in 1921 the need for a fireproof replacement was foremost in everyone’s mind.  Recognized for his architectural experience with such requirements in Spokane, Washington, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and St. Petersburg, Florida, Wm. J. Carpenter was contacted and commissioned to design and oversee the construction of the new building in late 1922.

  The result was the building that soon occupied a prominent position in the cultural and economic life of the community.  Because of this much has been recorded about it, and a portion of these records collected here.  The Hotel has remained in active use as a residential and guest hotel, and supports two night clubs at this time.

 The award of the architectural commission for this Mediterranean Revival Style historical structure was the major reason for the move of Mr. Carpenter and his family from St. Petersburg to DeLand in the early 1920s.  Under the contract, to be closed as soon as possible, “…the handsome fireproof New Putnam Inn is to be built, completed and ready for occupancy in six months’ time, for the sum of $433,000.00.”  It was a tight schedule, with little time for commuting.

 From a DeLand Daily News, Jan. 9, 1923 clipping microfilm file in Volusia County Public Library at the time of the contract we learn that:

 NEW PUTNAM INN to Be a Handsome Building

 The structure will be of steel and brick, absolutely fireproof, with tile roof.  Besides the large public rooms designed large enough to accommodate the 200 room hotel that is eventually planned, there are 112 bedrooms in the building.  The hotel will be four stories high and in the shape of an U, with the wings towards the avenue and a court between . On the first floor  the east wing will be devoted to a __punging room and ladies parlors while the west wing will be the dining room.  The lobby, 28 X 60, will be the main part of the building, from which stairways on each side will lead upstairs and there will also be passenger elevator. In addition on the ground floor will be a number of sun parlors.

 Mr. W. J. Carpenter, of Pittsburg and DeLand, will soon come to this city to make it his permanent home and to supervise the construction of the hotel. 

  After an interview with Jerry Rocco, the present owner, The Daytona Beach News-Journal of Sept. 6, 2002 published one of the comprehensive articles concerning this building. Here are some highlights relating to the building itself:

 “…It was the first fireproof hotel ever built in Florida, according to local historians…”

 “People actually bought stock in the Putnam Hotel, for $100 a share, back in the 1920s …”
 “…Jerry Rocco…bought the hotel from a Mrs. Katz in 1974…the doors were unlocked with skeleton keys when Rocco first purchased it….the sixth floor is supposedly haunted, but no one knows by whom…Rocco remembers meeting one of the hotel’s first owners, Sarah Hargreaves Brown…”

 “The hotel originally contained 128 units—all regular hotel rooms.  Over the years, Rocco said he’s renovated it into 46 apartments, leaving 26 hotel rooms…The apartments have kitchenettes, a living room, separate bedroom and private bath…

 “During its heyday, the Putnam was in such demand that ‘people used to reserve rooms here year-round so they could have the rooms for the winter,’ Jane Rocco said.”

 “…a former fire marshal told him (former DeLand Police Chief Richard Slaughter) it was one of the best-built old buildings in Deland.  ‘That’s amazing,’ the retired chief said….There’s no other building in town that matches it,” said Main Street DeLand executive director Taver Cornett.  ‘its solid concrete and the inside partitions are concrete.’

More on the Hotel Construction

 During a personal interview with Jerry Rocco he summarized the construction of the building as being of balloon construction, with the outside walls of brick or block, which supported long steel beams all the way across.  The only interior bearing walls are between the main, central lobby and the east and west wings.  The steel beams rest on these walls.  There are no room partitions that are structural, so that they can be, and have been, moved to change the size of the rooms or to rearrange them into suites.  (This may have also been done in the Cassadaga Hotel, another of his designs, because some rooms appear to be much larger than likely for a 1926 hotel in that area).

 Although there have been extensive modifications to the interior of the hotel, the exterior has remained very true to the original Carpenter design. The Hotel has been the subject of many picture postcards over the years and a study of them shows that there have been only minor modifications to the exterior of the structure.

More Putnam Hotel Postcards

A Site Survey of this historic property was conducted by the State of Florida in 1986 and may be found in the archives in Tallahassee as “Abbreviated Site Surveys, Site No. 8 VO 1602 ,  Survey date 8/13/86”.  As a result of this survey the building was found by the Florida Department of State to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, but this has apparently not been pursued by the present owners.

UPDATE

 The property was last sold in 2008   but the purchasers defaulted and ownership reverted to Jerry Rocco.  Anyone interested in a Florida investment would do well to look at http://www.beacononlinenews.com/news/daily/1494>.  I won’t expect any finder’s fee, only an assurance that this legacy which William Carpenter left us will be protected and preserved.

9 Comments »

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  1. Just as an insight as to the ownership of the Putnam Inn, JR’s and Karma… Jayne Rocco owns the entire building solely. She is still looking for an investor and plans on repairing the elevator so that the Historic Inn will be opened again for business. Currently the two night clubs are open and are thriving.!!! Thank you for all your support!!! JR.

    • Good Luck & have a Happy & Prosperous New Year. Jack

  2. Enjoyed reading this background and thoroughly appreciated the talk you did for the WVHS Jack.

    • It was a real pleasure giving the talk on the Putnam Hotel and architect Wm. J. Carpenter. Thanks for your help. I will be posting a report on it in a couple of days. Jack

  3. Nightclub is closed and building entirely shut down. Currently (as of April, 2017) Sarasota developer Tony Collins attempting to begin restoration if City will make certain economic concessions.

    • I haven’t heard the results of Tony Collins’ meeting with the City on May 1. Anyone care to comment? Jack

      • Good news. DeLand voted to provide funding for the Putnam Hotel on June 5. Payable $100,000/yr for 5 years.

  4. May 1, 2017. DeLand City Commission and the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency voted in favor of granting financial aid to Tony Collins in form of 10-year property tax abatement and $500,000 grant from City’s general fund. Final vote will be May 15 at the City Commission meeting.

  5. At the May 15th meeting the agreement was approved and it looks like the Putnam now has an opportunity to become restored.


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