March 3, 2002
"Model tell tale of City's History in miniature"
by: Jim Robison
Bill Goddard has done a lot to preserve the heritage of Altamonte Springs. The former vice president of the city’s historical society has collected pictures, land abstracts, news clippings and other remnants of the city’s past.
One of his best contributions was finding Lee Trenary. At least that’s the way I see it. Trenary and his wife, LaVonne, were Colorado farmers before they came to Florida in 1986. He managed a pest-control company long enough to take early retirement at 55.
“I decided to try to make a living at building models,” he said last week in a workshop next to his automobile sales office off County Rd 427 at Five Points. Trenary builds minutely detailed shoebox to kitchen table size models of old houses and other historic buildings. He works in scales as small as a half-inch to 3 feet. At that scale, bricks and roofing tiles are much smaller than the nail on your little finger.
His work is impressive and time-consuming.
He decided to display his first model at the pool service office where his wife worked. That’s where Goddard saw it.
Goddard knows a lot about putting in long hours. He spent two years researching the city’s past for historian Jerrell Shofner’s “A History of Altamonte Springs, Florida”, published in 1995 to mark the city’s 75th anniversary. That’s about the time Goddard suggested that Trenary pick one of Altamonte’s old houses for one of his replicas.
Trenary made a quick choice: Altamonte Springs’ last Queen Anne residence, the one that sits on the east side of Maitland Avenue between a convenience store and a shopping center. “That really caught my eye,” Trenary said of the 2 ½ story, 4,400 square foot house at 115 S. Maitland Ave. “I thought that would make an excellent model.”
It was once the home of the Bates family. Every November, the Bateses moved back into the house after arriving from Mount Vernon, NH to open the Altamonte Hotel for the winter season. The hotel was across Maitland Avenue on Lake Orienta and offered what newspapers of the time said was the finest dining around. The hotel’s proprietor from 1901 until his death in 1931 was George Everett Bates. His son, Everett C. Bates took over and ran the hotel until it burned in 1953.
Trenary spent hours measuring the old house. Those measurements were critical in his model planning. He worked on the basswood model in his spare time over the next year. By the time he had finished and put a price on his work, that price was a little more than the society was ready to pay. While they were negotiating, the model was displayed in Savannah, which adds an interesting twist.
The real house was built in 1892, when Altamonte Springs was a winter retreat for wealthy Northerners. Remodeled and renovated in recent years for professional offices, the house is now called The Savannahs.
The society and Trenary eventually settled on a price for the house and since then he has completed models of two other landmarks, the Altamonte Chapel and the Jasmine Theater.
All three of Trenary’s models – each using a scale of 1 inch to 3 feet – are displayed under clear domes in a new section of the Altamonte Springs City Library.
His newest model – the one he worked on for 650 hours – is a $3,500 dining room-table size recreation of the Altamonte Hotel, complete with its own horse-drawn Dixie Flier that looks just like a trolley that once carried winter guests to the hotel from the railroad’s station.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the Altamonte Springs Historical Society, society members, library staffers and city officials will unveil Trenary’s Altamonte Hotel at 3 p.m. Friday. Trenary will be there. Goddard too. If you would like a signed copy of my book and a chance to see the models and speak with Trenary, drop by the library on Friday. If you need directions, call me. Trenary is busy on a new project, the old railroad station.