The Sam Robinson House


 419 N. Magnolia Avenue

One of Orlando’s oldest and most elegant houses stands on the east side of North Magnolia Avenue near Livingston Street.  Sam Robinson built it in 1884. According to Orlando historian, Eve Bacon, the large Colonial-style frame residence “featured a gable and widow’s walk.  It had famous plate glass windows that puzzled the town because of their near invisibility.  The only running water in the home was through a hose in the bathroom off the ground floor master bedroom, which connected to the faucet on the back porch.  Its installation was considered almost grotesque modernity on the part of Mr. Robinson.” 

 Samuel Austin Robinson came to Orlando from Michigan in 1876 to help his older brother, Norman, set out a citrus grove in what is now Lake Eola Heights.  A civil engineer, Sam Robinson soon established a surveying practice in Central Florida and worked for seventeen years as Orange County’s Surveyor.  He also served as tax assessor and tax collector, alderman, school trustee, and city surveyor, in addition to two terms in the State Legislature.  Robinson laid out the downtown streets, and with Otto Fries, he surveyed the new Greenwood Cemetery. 

Sam first built a log house on Norman Robinson’s grove land at the northeast corner of Hillcrest Street and Cathcart Avenue, followed in 1884 by one of the first houses in the Lake Eola Heights area. Robinson built on land deeded to him in 1878 by his brother before the area was platted, resulting in difficult property descriptions.  His acreage eventually became part of the Speirs and Lockharts Subdivisions, but efforts to trace property ownership remain complicated.

Robinson lived in the house until 1900, when he sold it to Levi Dodge, for $2000 and release from the mortgage Dodge held on the property.  Sam Robinson relocated at that time to the North Main and Washington Streets area, where he occupied several different houses over the years and died in 1926.  At some time, probably before 1913, renovations to the front façade of the Magnolia Avenue house, including the addition of the four two-story columns, changed the Colonial Revival house to an imposing Classical Revival mansion. 

 In 1902, Dodge sold the same property to Isaac C. Mann, who lived there until his death in 1917.  His widow, Lizzie Mann, sold it to Alice H. Baker for $5000 in 1919. John and Alice Baker sold the house in 1920 to T. C. Brannon.  Brannon, a citrus inspector, conductor on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, realtor, and prominent Orlando citizen, occupied the residence, advertised as “The Magnolia,” for fifteen years.    The very social Brannon family gave numerous parties and gatherings, and they operated a boarding house, renting out rooms in the former Robinson house. The Broadway Methodist Church was organized at a meeting in the house in 1922.

In 1934, the Majefee Corporation, a housing construction firm which held a mortgage encumbering the property on Magnolia Avenue, foreclosed on T. C. Brannon.  The judgement required that the property be sold at auction for no less than $9,000 and Majefee was the highest bidder.  The house, called “The Colonial,” operated as a boarding house for the next ten years.  In 1936, the Colonial Tea Room advertised in the Winter Park Topics: lunches, dinners, special parties, and rooms by the day or the week.  The Orlando Sentinel society column praised the colonial atmosphere, furnishings and architecture, and noted “the particular charm” of the house.

By 1946, when the Majefee Corporation sold the property to William C. Haynie, commerce had begun to move out from the city along Magnolia Avenue.  Luther and Virginia Damron bought the house in 1948, with plans to open a twelve-room tourist hotel to be called “Magnolia Manor.”  The Damrons paid $32,500, with $13,000 remaining to be paid on $15,000 mortgage granted to the Majefee Corporation.

The Damrons sold the property to W. O. Daley, a certified public accountant, in 1954, and Daley’s newly organized firm, Four Nineteen, Inc., occupied the structure until 1986.  The Daley family sold in 2015 to Thorne Properties.

Today, Sam Robinson’s Colonial Revival residence that fronted a vast orange grove in 1884, has become a Classical Revival mansion on a heavily-traveled street in the heart of Orlando’s downtown.  Parts of the residential neighborhood that replaced the orange groves has itself given way to commercial concerns, and 419 Magnolia Avenue, a business for more than a half-century, led the way.  The imposing four-columned mansion appears wedged between two unfortunate additions of its own with businesses flanking those.  The oak trees that Sam Robinson planted are all gone in this section of Magnolia Avenue, which has been realigned so that the house is set back from the one-way street on a curve, obscuring it from the fast-moving traffic.  Many Orlandoans who pass every day have probably never noticed the beautiful and historically important house at 419 North Magnolia Avenue.

Tana Mosier Porter 2018











Church lot parking is limited however free on-street parking available starting 6pm

For more information contact or

Grace Hagedorn Receives Awards at OPT 2018 Spring Event

Orange Preservation Trust  Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation Award  Grace Hagedorn, (l) Raymond Cox (r)

Orange Preservation Trust

Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation Award

Grace Hagedorn, (l) Raymond Cox (r)

City of Orlando Grace Hagedorn Day Proclamation  (Richard Forbes,l, Grace Hagedorn,c, Raymond Cox,r.)

City of Orlando Grace Hagedorn Day Proclamation

(Richard Forbes,l, Grace Hagedorn,c, Raymond Cox,r.)


On Sunday April 29, Grace Hagedorn was awarded OPT's 1st Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation Award.

Surrounded by family, friends and fellow preservationists OPT president Raymond Cox gave the presentation including a quick review of her years of activism.

Not only did Grace receive OPT's award, on behalf of Mayor Dyer, Richard Forbes the Orlando Historic Preservation Officer, presented Grace with a City Proclamation that proclaimed April 29, 2018 Grace Hagedorn Day in the City of Orlando.

OPT would like to thank all the attendees, donors and especially Chad and Patty Lalonde for opening their beautiful 1911 historic home in the Lake Eola Heights Historic District for the event.

OPT Ending the Year on a Positive Note!

OPT's project for 2017 was to elevate the profile of the Orlando Landmarked Grand Avenue school. With it's closure this past school year and no confirmation from OCPS of its fate OPT's board became concerned. Even through visits, correspondence and meetings with vested parties nothing was forthcoming. The non-historic structures were demolished again with no word from OCPS of their intent for the site. City Commissioner Sam Ings had expressed his concern and  wishes  to see the historic structure saved and adapted to a facility serving the surrounding community. 

It was communicated this week from the City of Orlando and announced December 7th that the City of Orlando will take possession of the site including the historic school building via a land swap with the OCPS. The goal is to create a center for after-school programs, Parramore Kids Zone youth center and pottery program. Additionally a gymnasium with be constructed. The facility will continue its 90 plus year tradition as a central gathering place for the area.

A detailed article by Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeff Weiner can be found at this link

The move by the City of Orlando to take ownership of this site is a demonstration of creative solutions in providing needed social services and protecting the city's cultural historic resources. Kudos to Mayor Buddy Dyer and his staff for taking the lead.

Tinker Field History Plaza Groundbreaking

Monday October 30th was the ground breaking for the Tinker Field History Center on site of Tinker Field. The preservation of Tinker Field was the catalyst that launched Orange Preservation Trust, OPT, 3 years ago. The threat of demolishing the field for a parking lot did not sit well for many in the community. Tinker Field was where the winter league baseball teams began. It was also the site of black league baseball and where the discussion of integrated major league baseball started. Not only was it the site where Orlandoans gathered for recreation it was also a site where citizens gathered for social causes. Tinker Field hosted Dr. Martin Luther King where he spoke out for racial equality.

As size demanded larger sports venues and inter-city competition for winter training teams intensified Tinker Field was over-shadowed by larger interests. The Camping World Stadium expansion began to pressure the field. Tinker Field did remain active for smaller eclectic events and exhibits especially during football and soccer playoffs.

Through public pressure and support of local Orlando and state officials and staff via many public meetings the idea of the Tinker Field History Center was born. City of Orlando District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill gathered today to thank all involved and to turn dirt to begin the construction.

For more information please check the following City of Orlando link

Your support of preservation activism through volunteering and or donations helps insure that valuable cultural resources in Orange County, such as Tinker Field, will be protected.

Grand Avenue School Getting More Support

The recent Orlando Sentinel Editorial, dated July 23, 2017, adds to the support of saving the City of Orlando Landmark. Orlando District 6 City Commissioner Sam Ings is also requesting that the historic school building be repurposed to serve as a community gathering place as a charter school, after school activity center or event space. The surrounding land would provide park land that the City has indicated it would like to expand. While no definitive plans have been provided by OCPS it is important that we remain diligent to this project. OPT will continue to monitor any activity. 


Grand Avenue School

Grand Ave School photo from City of Orlando Historic Preservation Master Site File

Raymond Cox, president OPT

Coming off a successful 2016 project campaign, submitting the successful application for local City of Orlando landmark designation of the Marsh house, aka Eola House in Lake Eola Park, OPT was searching for a project for 2017. From informal conversations with members of the Orlando City Council OPT directed its attention to the west side of Orlando where preservation has had some difficulty. It was learned that OCPS was closing the City of Orlando landmarked Grand Avenue School mid June of 2017. Through conversation and investigation, OPT decided to focus on the landmarked Grand Avenue School. Two of our board members toured the school with the principal and both were amazed how well the facility was maintained and impressed how proud the staff was of the historic facility.

Deeper correspondence with the OCPS administration was pursued inquiring on the future of the historic facility. Correspondence from me to School Board Chairman Sublette was cc’d to Orlando City Council and planning staff with the purpose to provide a heads-up of any possible city planning and zoning conflict should demolition be attempted. E-mails between OPT board members and OCPS board members, legal staff and board chair provided no definitive answer and nothing could be ascertained other than it will no longer be used for educational purposes.

If you have been following our Facebook page or been reading the Orlando Sentinel, there have been 2 investigative articles by staff reporter Jeff Weiner trying to get more information from both the OCPS and City of Orlando. (see attached hotlinks to these articles).


There appears to be support from Orlando City Commissioner Ings on adaptive re-use of the facility as well as recent past opposition from the State Department of Historic Resources for demolition. OPT has no opinion on the future use of the property other than to maintain the historic structure, irrespective of public or private ownership, while allowing any non-historic structures on the property to be demolished.

As I have said, 22 years ago the citizens of Orlando through due process of the City of Orlando’s Planning and Zoning policy decided along with the City of Orlando and the OCPS that Grand Avenue School is an important part of the community’s historic cultural fabric and it is our responsibility as stewards of this community to respect and protect these cultural assets.

Please watch on our web site and Facebook page as well as follow in the local media for any further developments. Stay informed and stay involved.

FB: Orange Preservation Trust                                                   

May Is National Preservation Month

May is National Preservation Month

Raymond Cox, MA Historic Preservation

May marks National Preservation Month across the USA. Communities across the nation celebrate with activities, awards and travel suggestions. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the state, cities and preservation organizations have websites where you can learn about local and national events. You might start within your community and visit some places you’ve often heard of or discover old places that are new to you and learn how you can contribute and join!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation promotes Preservation Month through their highly popular #This Place Matters initiative. People are encouraged to photograph themselves in front of buildings, structures and places meaningful to their community and to them. You can follow as well as contribute to the program on their Facebook page National Trust and their webpage to learn how you can submit a place. If you’re planning a May vacation, you might want to check out the National Trust Travel webpage at recommended sites as well as historic inns and hotels for lodging.

The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation is a statewide agency that provides resources for services, events, seminars, and news on restoration and economic assistance programs. They also maintain site files for registered historic and endangered properties throughout Florida as well as available economic incentives. Visit their website at

The Orlando Historic Preservation Board awards owners, preservationists, and developers for achievements in protecting and rehabilitating the city’s historic resources. These awards will be announced and presented at the May 15th City Council meeting, 2PM, 2nd floor Council Chambers. The public is invited to attend. The City’s website has links to the historic places, neighborhoods, structures, resources and services available. Check it out at

Orange Preservation Trust, OPT, is a regional countywide non-profit organization that provides resources, education and advocacy for the historic resources in the Orange County area. A recent OPT project was the successful application of the Marsh House, aka Eola House, in Lake Eola Park to the City of Orlando’s Landmark list. OPT is also a beneficiary of the Lake Eola Heights Private Gardens Tour. You are encouraged to participate and join!

While there are many successfully preserved and contributing historic structures, be them residential, commercial, private and public, that we look at as “monuments” to events, people, industry, time periods, skilled craftsmanship and materials there are many that remain threatened by neglect, willful demolition by neglect as well as economic pressure for large scale redevelopment. We all have the ability to help by volunteering time, resource and or money to preservation organizations and governmental review boards and review processes.

In response to threats on historic buildings, to paraphrase the late preservationist and former First Lady Jackie Kennedy, ‘…we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed’. Take hold of your legacy and let May be your start of something “old” for the generations that follow!

Preservation and the Community Together

Dear Fellow Preservationist;

As OPT reflects back on 2016 we see successes and challenges and as we look forward we see opportunity. Our successes have come from the diligence of both the OPT board as well as from members of the community. Together we can become the stewards of Orange County’s cultural resources.

We saw the successful landmark designation of the Marsh House in Lake Eola Park in Orlando as well as the nominations of the Bob Carr theater and the Armory as local Orlando Landmarks. One outstanding challenge is the current move by the City of Orlando to amend the local Landmark process by including the requirement that any application can only be made with property owner consent. We were able to get some publicity on the item and members of the community wrote and spoke against this change. This change is in opposition to nearly all other Certified Local Governments, CLG, in the State of Florida. While this change does have support of city council and staff there is recognition that modifications are needed to prevent any inadvertent threat to historic resources and consideration is being given to modify at the City Council 2nd reading in the near future.

There are opportunities for OPT to identify threatened historic resources in Orange County but to do so we need participation from people like you in the community. We look to the community to identify what is historically important and we will try to work together on feasible solutions.

We hope you take the opportunity to “like” and “share” Orange Preservation Trust on Facebook, check out our web site, and email us with ideas, comments and concerns at Share our Social media with family and friends. Most importantly we ask you to consider becoming a member, membership dues schedule can be found on our web page.

Together we can work together to save, protect and share what makes Orange County, Florida unique.


Raymond G Cox, OPT president