2009-10-04

Eagle's Nest Gardens - Bellair, Florida Pt. 2


I was recently contacted through this blog by the grand-daughter of John Dean, who lived in the wonderful waterfront Bellair bluff house (see earlier post here) located in Eagle's Nest Gardens prior to Mr. Alvord (who developed the garden as an attraction). Her grandfather built most of the wooden elements of the gardens: the little temples, pagodas, bridges, etc. Her father was born in the house in 1930 (note: what a great place to start your life!). She refers to her father's childhood home as the grove house. In fact, she has extensive family in the area dating back more than 150 years!

She writes “Yes my dad has lots of memories of playing in the gardens — taking my grandfather his lunch, having tea with the aunties at the little Japanese teahouse… he also remembered distinctively the "Hound of the Baskervilles," so I was tickled when I found a picture of it. My grandfather had found a large eagle's nest that had blown down out of a tall tree during a storm and had climbed back up the tree to reposition it — amazingly enough, the eagles had returned. Considering my grandfather was only about 5'-5" and eagle's nests are very large and heavy that was quite an accomplishment.” (Electrospark's note: Bald Eagles build the largest nests in the world that are made by a single pair of birds. Some nests weigh over a thousand pounds. A large nest could be 12' deep.)

It's great to hear from people with personal stories connected to history such as yours. Thanks for sharing the photos and the stories with us, Lisa!

This photo (circa 1937) shows an exterior treatment given to the Dean/Alvord house by Mr. Dean to make it look tropical by using bamboo as exterior cladding. There was no power on the property, so Mr. Dean had the fabricate all the bamboo by hand.

Tea House

Trolleys came here from the lavish Belleview Biltmore resort hotel; note the upper-class clothing on the visitors in this photo.



7 comments:

  1. Wonderful work. What is that hound made of?

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  2. The Hound of the Baskervilles was actually an oddly shaped "cypress knee" which is part of the cypress tree's root system. Here in Florida they are actually polished up and sold as tourist trinkets. They are usually quite pretty and have a nice color to them. My dad said he was always afraid to go down the path where the hound was when he was little - it was a little scary! Lisa Dean

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  3. What a great story, and awesome pictures. I'm a little saddened that it's no longer there. Thanks for sharing this bit of local history.

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  4. My dad was born in that little house that later became Mr. Alvords house as in your photo. My grandfather worked for Mr. Alvord in the gardens with the Japanese gardener, and also worked for some of the residents of nearby Harbor Oaks, another one of Mr. Alvords properties. Mr grandfather John Dean, built most of the wooden elements of the gardens, the little temples, pagodas, bridges and such. My greatgrandparents lived in a house on the edge of the gardens on Rosary Road.

    My great grandfather Claude Roberts was born in Key West and eventually moved up the coast with some of his brothers. Claude settled in the Clearwater area after meeting his wife Allie in Cedar Key. His brother Louis settled in Sarasota where I was born. My grandmother Alice Iona was born in Clearwater as was my dad in 1930. My great grandfather Claude was a professional fisherman all up and down the coast. His oldest brother Thomas was a steamship captain that ran a little steamboat between Cedar Key and Pinellas County. His property in Clearwater eventually was given to the city to become the municipal cemetery.

    Yes my dad has lots of memories of playing in the gardens, taking my grandfather his lunch, having tea with the aunties at the little Japanese teahouse. He also remembered distinctively the "Hound of the Baskervilles" so I was tickled when I found a picture of it. The gardens started out as the "Japanese Gardens" and was very popular as a tourist attraction. There was even a little shuttle that brought visitors down from the big Biltmore Hotel. Of course after Pearl Harbor, the name was changed. My grandfather had found a large eagles nest that had blown down out of a tall tree during a storm and had climbed back up the tree and had repositioned the nest and amazingly enough the eagles had returned. Considering my grandfather was only about 5'5" and eagles nests are very large and heavy that was quite an accomplishment. So they rechristened the gardens the "Eagle's Nest Gardens" It was quite popular for almost twenty years, but unfortunately the property was divided up and sold and eventually turned into a very nice upscale subdivision sometime in the late fifties. So unless some backyards still have little pagodas in them, I'm sad to say none of the gardens exist anymore. Other than in my dad's memories and any little ephemera I can find. I was very happy to find your lovely picture of Mr. Alvord's house. As you can see in the picture I sent, an earlier (about 1937 we think) redecoration of the little grove house was to cover it in pieced bamboo. My grandfather did most of the work on this. Mind you, this was the early thirties. No electric power tools. My grandfather did all this work with handtools. Even the pagodas and such.

    Well, I hope you enjoyed this little bit of Florida history. There isn't too many of us "natives" around in Florida. Especially families that go back so far. So I'm always happy to share.

    Thanks!
    Lisa Dean

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  5. We recently purchased a house on Bluffview Dr, Belleair, FL right where part of this garden was located. We love the history...is there any way we could purchase copies of the pictures?? We would love to frame the pics and history for our living room! Marilynn Braude

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  6. MB - Contact me by e-mail (see under my Profile pic. - Steve

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  7. I bought a box full of memorabilia from this place at an estate sale in St. Pete a few years ago. Most interesting to me were a number of rare books on Japanese Gardens, but also a lot of postcards, photos, and other stuff that probably came from the owners or the gift shop there.

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