RingSide Report

World News, Social Issues, Politics, Entertainment and Sports

The Saving Of Our Local History Continues—Part IV


By Seth H. Bramson

As some of you may remember, our last several columns have discussed the purchase and/or attainment of several great and incredible railroad and Miami memorabilia collections, among them those of the late personages William Gleason and Jim Farrell. Today, though, we move on to the accessioning of the incredible architectural collection of the great Coral Gables and Miami architect Donald F. Roban.

Mr. Roban, a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which is, in the architectural field, the equivalent of the CPA in accounting or membership in the legal, medical or dental societies and/or associations. While not mandatory for architects it is certainly a prestigious and worthwhile achievement and accomplishment to have passed the tests required to achieve that designation.

Following architectural school, Don Roban did his apprenticeship time with several well-known Miami architects prior to going out on his own. Besides the work done for others his lengthy resume of great works is not only quite extensive but no less impressive, as will be explained below.
“How,” you ask, “did you come to acquire yet another incredible collection?!!” And, indeed, ask and you shall learn. You asked and I am pleased to, as Desi would have said, “Lucy, lemme ‘splain you!”

As some of you know, I am President of both the Miami Memorabilia Collectors Club and the Greater North Miami Historical Society, hence I am always and endlessly reaching out to friends and fellow members for information and or leads relating to the availability of and/or the opportunity to, purchase or obtain Miami memorabilia, Floridiana and rail and trolleyana, and, seriously, those opportunities cannot and must not be passed up. Frankly, in many cases, had I not taken advantage of said opportunities, the amount of historic memorabilia that would have been lost to us forever, is literally inestimable.

Several months ago, at a meeting of the Memorabilia Collectors Club, one of our members presented, at our monthly “Find of the Month,” some wonderful material from the University of Miami dating back to the 1940s which he had discovered at an estate sale. In talking to him about it he assured me that there was a great deal more and that I should visit the location—which he kindly gave me—on the coming Saturday, which I did.

It was a trip very worthwhile.

When I walked into the house, which apparently had been unoccupied since Mr. Roban had died some months earlier, the smell, while not overly offensive, was the lingering remain of what it had been when the house had been opened prior to the previous sale a week earlier. Musty and mildewed fragrances were rampant throughout.

As I entered I noted, on my right in the living room, what appeared to be large, color (and some pencil) renderings of homes and buildings. They were quite attractive, but, initially, had no meaning to me, as, at the time, I had no idea who Don Roban was. I was soon to find out.
As I began looking through the “stuff” I noticed very little in the way of anything Miami-related but that would, soon enough, change.

Going through the rooms, I eventually opened a cabinet which, apparently, while possibly having been opened the week prior, was untouched. And what of that cabinet (as it turned out, there were two of the same kind, type and size), you ask.

Each of them stood approximately three and one-half to four feet tall and two and one half to three feet wide, and each was a warrant of nothing but cubby holes. On further inspection, though (there was very little light in the room), I observed that, in each cubby hole, there was something rolled-up. Upon removing the first rolled item I discovered, much to my now increasing exhilaration, that it was the blueprint set for a Coral Gables house. Each succeeding roll increased my joyful anticipation, for each roll had great meaning in and to (mostly) South Florida and particularly Greater Miami history.

Well, now that I have you on the edge of your seats, breathing hard and anxious with anticipation to discover what I had stumbled upon, and because you have been so patient, I am about to share the incredible find(s) with you!

I know you are breathing hard, and, in your fervent minds pleading with me to divulge and so it follows, for what I turned up, were several hundred architecturals of homes and businesses in Gables Estates, Gables-by-the-Sea, Coral Gables and the Southwest section of Miami. And as the great Popiel’s Pocket Fisherman commercial used to resound, “but wait, there’s more!”

Three of the blueprints were buildings in Bay Harbor Islands. In addition, we now have the Normandy Branch post office on Miami Beach blueprints along with a post office in Georgia and one in Nawth Cahh-lina, plus about five Homestead Air Force Base buildings, several business in Perrine, three or four buildings in the Keys, the Miami Northwestern High School blueprints, the 1957 vocational building addition to North Miami High School and a blueprint of a home built for the Chuluota Town Development Co. in 1958.
Yes, there’s more, and you don’t have to ask!

Remember the renderings I mentioned above from when I first came in? Well, you won’t have to guess, ‘cause I’m gonna tell you!

There must be close to a hundred magnificent full color renderings of many of the houses in the blueprints plus a large number of pencil renderings besides. This was truly not only a great find for me as America’s senior collector of Miami memorabilia and Floridiana, but, in addition, for those interested in this type of historic material with this level of importance

Because I paid a great deal of money for the material, I do have to sell the bulk of it. While I have reached out to two important Coral Gables entities related to the history of that city in terms of offering them the opportunity to purchase the material (at no time was a monetary figure mentioned) their lack of interest has been dismaying. As for HistoryMiami, as the late, great Neil Rogers would have said, “they hate me like poison,” so no sense in even telling them about it or offering it to them.

Naturally, once and after it sells, those and many other organizations will want to know why I wasn’t in touch, and, as I have used the term hereon before, for that, more is the pity. This, indeed, will be one of those “couldda’, shouldda’, wouldda’” situations in which, once this incredible collection has been sold, I guarantee you that they will be wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth because, as stated, they could have had one of the greatest South Florida architectural and historic memorabilia collections ever preserved by a private individual.
For now, then, we leave you with only good wishes for a happy and safe new year and with those same wishes for a marvelous 2020. And as we say in South Florida, “thank you for not shooting and have a MIAMI NICE day!”

[si-contact-form form=’2′]