DEAN ALBERT ALVORD, REAL ESTATE VISIONARY
1856 - 1937
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Dean Alvord was a prominent and innovative real estate developer in New York and Florida. Areas and buildings that he developed are on the National Historic Register, and residents still treasure them.
His lineage: Dean Albert 1856 NY1, James Dwight 1825 NY2, James Wadsworth 1795 ??3, Thomas Gould 1763 CT4, Thomas Gould 1741 CT5, Asahel6, Thomas7, Thomas8, Alexander9.
Descendant of Alexander Alvord
Dean Alvord is listed on pages 520 and 644-645 in Samuel Morgan Alvord’s A Genealogy of the Descendants of ALEXANDER ALVORD An Early Settler of Windsor, Conn. and Northampton, Mass. (Webster, NY: A.D. Andrews, Printer, 1908). At the time of publication, Dean and his family were still living in Brooklyn. The following information, unless otherwise noted, is from that book.
Dean Albert Alvord was born 4 Dec 1856 in Syracuse, NY, the son of James Dwight Alvord and Caroline Louise Edwards.
He married Nellie Barnum, daughter of Abijah and Abigail (Bryant) Barnum on 11 March 1885. She was born in Ovid, NY, 15 July 1863.
Dean graduated from Syracuse University in 1882. For eight years he was general secretary of the Y.M.C.A. at Rochester, NY. He then moved to Brooklyn and was devoted to the development of real estate. His interest in the civic improvement was evidenced by the character of the real estate developments with which he was connected. He gained a reputation in the matter of beautification of city streets and stimulated interest in suburban improvement by offering prizes for the best kept yards, most beautiful window gardens, etc. He was president of Dean Alvord Company and a member of the Municipal Art Society, the Municipal Club, the Hardware Club and the Lawyers Club of New York City.
Children: (all born in Rochester, NY, except the last one, who was born in Brooklyn, NY)
1. Harry Alvord, born 12 June 1886 and died 9 Dec 1886.
2. Donald Alvord, born 27 Feb 1892. The Social Security Death Index reports his death in August 1977 in St. Petersburg, Pinellas Co., FL.
3. Evelyn Alvord, born 24 Apr 1893.
4. Mildred Alvord, born 18 Apr 1897 and died 7 May 1898
5. Eric Alvord, born 29 Sept 1903. The Social Security Death Index reports his death in May 1979; the zip codes given for his residence, 33942, and last benefit, 33940, do not exist. Perhaps they should be 33742/0, which are for St. Petersburg, FL, where Eric’s brother Donald also lived.
On the 1900 census Dean Alvord’s family resided on Albermale Road in Brooklyn; the family consisted of Dean 43, “Millie” 39, Donald 8, Evelyn 7 and sister Octarva Holman 29.
Sometime after 1910, Dean moved his family to Clearwater, Pinellas Co., FL. (We have not located the family on the 1910 census.)
In 1920 the family was at #315 Harbor Oaks Street in Clearwater, Pinellas Co., FL, dwelling #523: Dean Alvord, real estate manager, 63; his wife Nellie B. 56; and children, all single: Donald 27, Evelyn 26 and Eric 13. All and their parents were born in NY.
In 1930 they are on Magnolia Drive in Clearwater (District 46), Pinellas Co., FL, dwelling #117: Dean Alvord, real estate capitalist, age 74 b. NY; his wife Nellie B. 66 NY; son Donald 38 (single) NY; and 2 unrelated servants. In dwelling #116 is the family of Robert S. Brown, who later bought the Alvord house [see below].
Dean and his wife do not appear in the SSDI. The Newsday article below states that Dean Alvord died in 1937. The Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 (Ancestry.com), lists a Dean Alvord who died in Tampa, Hillsborough Co. in 1941, but no other identifying information is provided. No Alvords were found living in Hillsborough Co. in 1930, but between 1938 and 1943, four Alvords are listed on the Death Index in Hillsborough Co., all with death dates only: Lucy F. Alvord 1938, James Church Alvord 1939, Dean Alvord 1941, Donald M. Alvord 1943.
The following references to Dean Alvord’s real estate developments appear on the Internet:
9 December 2003
HIS HEART BELONGED TO BELLE TERRE
By Rhoda Amon | Staff Writer
‘There is nothing quite like Belle Terre in the world,” stated the elegant brochure created by the Dean Alvord Co. in 1910 to promote its exclusive summer colony on Port Jefferson Harbor. It might also have said there was no developer quite like Dean Alvord.
True, Alexander T. Stewart, the department store tycoon who founded Garden City, envisioned a model community, as did other 19th Century Long Island developers. But when it came to the quest for the ultimate in architectural and community beauty, “the perfect home in perfect surroundings . . . where every landholder is a king,” in that respect, even Stewart was no Dean Alvord.
Alvord cut a swath of luxury living across Long Island even before he reached Belle Terre, and at one point he owned 10 percent of the Long Island shoreline. He began in Brooklyn in 1898, acquiring a large tract near Prospect Park. A tall, courtly, professorial man, he was then 42 and had come from Syracuse, where he taught at Syracuse University and then settled into a job as general secretary of the Rochester YMCA. At some point, the YMCA secretary decided the time was right to move to New York City and build “perfect homes” for people who could afford perfection.
Alvord’s Prospect Park South was no Levittown. Each house was designed as a separate entity, and Alvord’s architectural staff could turn out homes in Colonial Revival, Italianate, French Renaissance, Elizabethan, Jacobean, Japanese or Spanish Mission style. To ensure a park-like atmosphere, Alvord buried all utility lines and required that all houses be set back behind large front lawns, a pattern he continued across Long Island.
Alvord formed a syndicate that purchased land from Long Island City in Queens to Shinnecock Hills on the East End. In 1906, the company built an upscale housing development that became the village of Roslyn Estates. It’s still a classy enclave with winding tree- shaded roads and a median home value inching toward $700,000.
But it was to Belle Terre that Alvord brought his whole heart and much of his money. He bought a triangular tract called Mount Misery Neck from the bankrupt Port Jefferson Co., which had purchased the old Strong family estate with hopes of developing it.
“Alvord paid $650,000 for the 1,300 acres plus $100,000 for the improvements which the original company had completed,” historians Gordon Welles and William Proios reported in their book, “Port Jefferson, Story of a Village,” published by the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson.
Retaining the name Belle Terre (French for “beautiful land”) that the earlier developers had chosen, Alvord set out to create an exclusive hideaway for the city’s aristocracy. Prospective land buyers were soon arriving from the city in a private railroad car provided by Alvord’s close friend, Ralph Peters, then president of the Long Island Rail Road.
Alvord bought land alongside the old brick railroad station and had his architects, Pettit and Green, design a white columned neoclassical temple for the visitors to alight in. He also built a road from the station to carry them in style to the gates of Belle Terre.
“No expense was spared,” said his great-granddaughter-in-law, Lynn Flaster Alvord.
Dean Alvord could never be accused of cutting corners. He would insist that even his ledgers be bound in the finest leather with real brass corners.
The three-story Belle Terre Clubhouse, styled as an English inn, was the focal point of the colony. Set on a 200-foot bluff overlooking the harbor and the town, the clubhouse had accommodations for 100 with a fireplace in every room, a dining room that could seat 200 and serve the finest cuisine and a barber shop and billiards rooms in the basement.
Outdoors, there were miles of bridle paths, tennis courts, golf courses, a croquet ground, bowling green and a private garage to service the motoring set.
As many as 100 carpenters worked on the clubhouse alone. The Port Jefferson Echo ran a “Belle Terre Notes” column keeping local citizens posted on the project’s progress and its burgeoning job market.
Only those of “good social standing” would be eligible for membership, and they would be safe from “inharmonious elements” because no one could enter the grounds without an invitation card. Despite these promises to keep out the hoi polloi, Alvord’s promotional literature denied any snob appeal, dwelling on congeniality. “Here are scores of people of moderate means whose recognized social prominence is due to their refinement and lovable personality,” the disclaimer read.
Belle Terre would become the most selective colony this side of Newport, R.I., attracting industrial and financial barons such as J.P. Morgan, known more for his wealth and power than his lovableness. At its height, Belle Terre counted membership from among the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, Goulds, Huntingtons and Astors.
Alas, there were not enough solvent aristocrats in the tumultuous economy preceding World War I. Alvord’s original concept of a few very exclusive estates gave way to a subdivision of six- to-eight- room “bungalows” and 10- to 15-room “country houses.”
“Despite an expenditure of more than $1,000,000, the development corporation went into receivership in 1913,” Welles and Proios reported. “Before its demise, however, Alvord and his colleagues were able to establish an exclusive retreat the like of which Long Island was not to see again.”
Undeterred and still in pursuit of beautiful architecture and landscaping, Dean Alvord left Belle Terre and toured Asia with his son, Donald, in 1913. The Alvords settled in Clearwater, on Florida’s west coast, and created Harbor Oaks, the area’s first planned residential development. Alvord’s waterfront estate, Eagles Nest, had a Japanese teahouse that became a tourist attraction.
Belle Terre succumbed in the 1920s to sand mining operators who gouged out huge chunks of land. The remaining wealthy residents incorporated as a village in 1931 to stop the sandmining and ban commercial activity.
Alvord died in 1937. The clubhouse burned down in 1934 and the pergolas were washed away in the 1938 hurricane. But some Tudor mansions remain in what was called “the English section,” says village historian Nancy Orth, who was born there in 1940. Tree- shaded streets and spacious homes on wooded acres make Belle Terre still a “lovely place to live,” Orth says. That, in the end, was Dean Alvord’s Long Island legacy.
Flatbush and Prospect Park South
FLATBUSH, THE HEART OF BROOKLYN, by Nedda C. Allbray (2004)
This book, partially available at Google Books, contains a somewhat lengthy discussion (page 140142) of Prospect Park South and Dean Alvord’s part in its development.
Wikipedia.com’s article on Prospect Park South, Brooklyn, also has information about the Dean Alvord, along with some photos of the area.
CLEARWATER, PINELLAS CO., FLORIDA
[This was posted on the Clearwater Public Library website but has been removed: http://www.clearwater-fl.com/cpl/chsphoto.html]
“Harbor Oaks was established in 1912-14 by Dean Alvord, a New York developer who used subdivision planning methods far ahead of the time for Florida. It was Clearwater’s first exclusive neighborhood and became home to such prominent figures as Donald Roebling (amphibious tank), Charles Ebbett (Brooklyn Dodgers), Robert Ingersoll (Ingersoll-Rand), and Studebaker (automobiles).”
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Text on the sign:
Harbor Oaks was Clearwater’s first planned residential development. Dean Alvord, a major developer in New York state, opened Harbor Oaks in 1914. Bringing modern planning concepts to the Pinellas County area, the development offered innovative features such as underground utilities, paved streets, curbs and sidewalks, a sewer system, and tree lined parkways. Deed restrictions ensured a rich architectural mix of mostly two story homes including fine examples of Mediterranean Revival, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Mission and Bungalow styles. Local newspapers called Harbor Oaks “the Riviera of the Sunny South” and “the finest shore development on the West coast of Florida”. The development was essentially completed by 1930. Harbor Oaks has been the home of such prominent persons as author Rex Beach, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Charles Ebbett, inventor Donald Roebling, industrialist Robert Ingersoll, and members of the Studebaker and Proctor and Gamble families. The Harbor Oaks Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
This Mediterranean style home was built in 1925 by Dean Alvord. The Harbor Oaks Subdivision, a National Register Historic District, was designed and built with sewers, roads, landscaping, street lights and other amenities, which was advanced for land development of its period.
Alvord had intended only to buy enough land on which he could build a winter home for himself, but E.H. Coachman refused to sell him a single parcel. Since Alvord had to then by the entire former grove, he decided to develop it as a subdivision. His plan was to attract wealthy winter residents and protect their property values by including sewers, roads, water and landscaping.
A later owner of this home was Robert S. Brown, who added extensive wings on the north and south ends of the main house. He also changed the window configuration and remodeled the interior. He added a large bell tower, elaborate gardens on the bay side, and an extensive organ system inside.