ABOVE: First National Bank & Trust Building built in 1913
By Susan Myers Mount Dora Buzz Historical Columnist In 1913, three years after incorporating as a city, the first bank opened in Mount Dora. Originally named the Mount Dora Bank and Trust Company, it was located at 404 N. Donnelly Street where Becker's Shoe Store is in business today.
It wasn’t long before a larger building was needed and the land on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Donnelly Street was purchased. The Whitney family previously had a home at that location which had been relocated to McDonald Street and Twelfth Avenue. Under the supervision of James Simpson, construction began in July 1925 and the two-story building was finished in March 1926.
Today this landmark building, with its stately arched windows and painted brick exterior, is significant in Mount Dora for its history and beauty and because it’s one of the few early buildings in the city designed by an architect. Historic bank buildings generally display some of the most impressive architecture in downtown areas today. Like in Mount Dora, they were often among the few buildings designed by architects at that time, and they needed to convey a feeling of security and confidence. Depositing your hard-earned money in a bank was a new concept, and with no federal guarantees, it was necessary to gain the public's trust.
By the 1920s, a bank building’s exterior and interior were constructed with expensive materials such as marble and limestone, and Mount Dora’s new bank was no exception. The interior of the building featured a 22-foot high ceiling with marble wainscoting and a marble floor. The counters and partitions for the tellers were of Alabama marble, and the tellers’ cages were bronze with brass grilles. In 1927, the bank converted from a state bank to a national bank and changed its name to First National Bank of Mount Dora. George White, Sr., an officer at the Federal Reserve Bank in Jacksonville, served as executive vice-president that year and later became president in 1937. Initially, the bank's front doors faced Donnelly Street, as depicted in the photo. New entry doors were created on Fifth Avenue and removed on Donnelly Street at some unknown time. The workmanship on this modification is so superior that it’s difficult, if not nearly impossible, to see any sign of the old doors.
The First National Bank served the community in this location for 42 years until April 1968, when it moved to a new larger building at 714 N. Donnelly Street, and the old building was sold to three local men interested in the development of downtown Mount Dora – city councilman Sam Shaw, attorney Tom Champion, and city building inspector and tax assessor John Cain. The trio purchased the building under the name of SA-TO-JO Development Company, Inc., and eventually sold the building in June 1971 to Eustis realtor and developer Everett Huskey, who developed many subdivisions and condominiums in Mount Dora and the central Florida area. Huskey relocated his offices there from Eustis following extensive renovations which included painting the exterior of the brick building a cream color and adding “Bahama-Jamaica style” wood louvers over the exterior windows. Before the grand opening on October 1, 1971, the finishing touch was placing the name “Huskey Building” at the top of the building. Nell Ann Bruck managed the office of 15 salespeople, who covered all of Lake County and the northwest Orange County area. In September 1991, Eustis Realtor and Developer Keith Shamrock purchased the building for his residential and commercial Real Estate business. The building became known as the “Shamrock Building,” which remains today. The Shamrocks retain ownership of the building today, and Berkshire Hathaway Florida Realty Associates occupies the space.