[PHOTO CREDITS: Bonnie Whicher]
(This Article was First Published in LLN in August, 2015 — Issue No. 23.)
There’s a lot of history in the grand two-story house that sits at 804 North Bay Street in downtown Eustis, Florida. Once the childhood home of probate and estate-planning attorney Frank Gaylord, it now houses the office he shares with fellow attorney Michael Rogers. Nearly a century old, the home was built in 1926 by Charles Z. “Zeb” Osborne, then a prominent Lake County Builder. Osborne also built several schools in Eustis.
The home was purchased by Gaylord’s parents in the 1940s — but the sale included a very specific condition. As it tuns out, the home’s seller (named Cole) also owned Lake Region News at the time. He informed Gaylord’s father that he (Cole) had to leave Florida to go to California to tend to business. Cole didn’t want his newspaper to fold, so Gaylord’s father was told he would have to run the paper for two years as a condition of the sale! (The paper was later sold.)
Speaking in greater detail, Gaylord explains to Lake Legal News that his father (who was also an estate attorney) was always referred to as “Mr. Harry,” by both judges and the community alike. Mr. Harry attended Stetson University (Florida’s first law school) and graduated with a Bachelor of Law. At the time of his death in 1992, Mr. Harry had been a member of the Florida Bar for more than 50 years. In fact, in 1938 and just 21 years old, Mr. Harry had been sworn in (in Eustis) as the youngest mayor in the United States at that time, by Circuit Judge James B. Koonce. Gaylord still has the small Bible used to swear his father in. Though fragile and a little battered, the Bible is in remarkably good condition to be more than 75 years old.
In another recollection, Gaylord tells LLN that his mother, Faustene, was a teacher at Eustis High School and she would invite her female students over to the family home for high tea in the living room.
The house also is home to a pump organ from the 1850s and still has much of its original charm. The brick facade is original, along with the awnings over the windows. The doors and wood floors are also original. Oak was used in the common areas downstairs and pine was used upstairs in the bedrooms. Pine was cheaper and used upstairs for that reason, Gaylord notes. The two-story garage in the back is also original; the top floor was used for the house help’s living quarters. The house also has a basement, quite a rarity in Florida.
In the days before cell phones and intercoms, a buzzer system was used to summon the help. A buzzer was installed in the floor of the dining room and one would simply step on it and it would signal the help in their living quarters. The dining room has since been converted to a client waiting area and a rug covers it, but the buzzer is still there. Also in that waiting area is a table with a collection of trinkets that’s been given to the attorneys over the years — and sometimes clients would take something from the table and leave another thing in its place. “Folks just kind of trade,” Gaylord says with a laugh.
Keeping with the older charm, the house is furnished with many antiques and cozy chairs. It has the feel of a home and not a law office. “Other lawyers are amazed at how comfortable they feel here,” Gaylord remarks. “It’s a comfort zone. It’s just a great environment to be in.” A large wood table standing in Gaylord’s office — a gift from a client — is in view as he speaks.
Gaylord naturally has fond memories of growing up in the house with his two brothers, Harry and John. Bay Street didn’t have nearly the commercial growth as it does now and the lots near the Gaylord Manor were wooded. The trio of brothers would enjoy watching their neighbor chase snakes with a pitchfork. They also had a fire pedal car they would “drive” down the hill towards Lake Eustis. Usually the curb would stop them short, Gaylord remembers, and his brothers would go flying. Today the pedal car still sits in the living room where the boys’ mother and her students once enjoyed high tea.
Gaylord continued to live in the house until he was about 16 years old and the city decided to turn the area into commercial property. In terms of its use today as a law office, Gaylord has no plans of retiring and said he will likely practice until he dies.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, began writing for Lake Legal News in 2010. In addition, she has made more than two dozen appearances on live national television, including Nancy Grace and the Greta Van Susteren show, along with her appearance on Evil Twins. Contact her with breaking news, tips, and feedback by sending an e-mail to 352Tips@gmail.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page — and make sure you “Like” and “Follow us” there. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]