A Legacy Project: The Dunedin History Museum Raises the Bar on its Mission of Historic Preservation and Education



I was pleased to be the Project Architect in the recent, ten-month expansion and renovation project of the Dunedin History Museum, and to work with the museum’s Executive Director Vinnie Luisi, the City of Dunedin and two highly regarded Dunedin professionals in ensuring the project produced the best possible results. The museum will have a Ribbon Cutting on October 6 to celebrate the project’s completion.

“When we applied for the grant from the State of Florida, Division of Cultural Affairs, the panel’s greatest concern was historic preservation,” said Luisi. “The train station that is now our museum was built in 1924 by the Atlantic Coast Railroad. I shared my concerns and vision for the expansion with Rod Collman, President of sdg Architecture, and he understood. He set about designing a gift shop and new entryway that added only three walls with no noticeable difference in the design of the building. The fourth wall inside the gift shop is the original exterior east wall of the station with the original windows, roof and Dunedin railroad sign under the new roof structure,” he said. 


I’ve designed many much larger additions to buildings, but this was the most difficult expansion of my career. The challenge was truly saving the existing building. It was like designing and building a watch – the need for detail was extreme. When we first met to talk about ideas for the expansion, what we ended up doing wasn’t my first idea. It was well known Dunedin architect Dan Massaro who said, “we want to leave this overlay inside the building”. I did a drawing of what we proposed, and Vinnie and the Board of Directors of the museum said “Yes, that is what we are looking for!” Designing in such a manner to wrap around and enclose the old structure was complicated, but necessary to preserve the original building and make it look original on the outside. That exterior wall built in 1926 is the first artifact you see when you come in.


Team members included Dan Massaro, Architect and Project Manager, and Terry Hodge, President of Terbo Group contractors. Dan played the role of Owner’s Representative to oversee the project. He came to Dunedin from Chicago in 1973 and in 1985 he started his own business, Massaro and Associates, Inc. He was my partner for five years. Terry Hodge is the President of Terbo Group contractors. As General Manager of construction, Terry made sure everything was completed on time and within budget.

“The result was these three guys working together,” said Luisi. “It was a dream team. The City Commissioners and staff were so confident in the project’s planning and management, they rarely needed to check or supervise our progress. They had it covered.”

Luisi is proud of the new level of presentation in the museum’s exhibits.  Because of the funding that became available for showcasing the museum’s collection and the objects borrowed for temporary exhibits, the design, fixtures and layout of the galleries is more visually and physically sophisticated than ever before. The City of Dunedin allocated $400,000 with half of that earmarked for the extension of the project for exhibits and completion and outfitting of gallery space. The State of Florida, Division of Cultural Affairs allocated $400,000 and the museum raised $60,000 in private funding to supplement exhibits.


“We are showcasing 150 years of Dunedin History, and the ancient history of the native people who lived in the area. Our exhibits now include videos and interactive monitors as well as traditional artifacts to better bring history alive. This gives us the opportunity to attract more school groups for more programs suited to them,” said Luisi.

This is what I call a Legacy Project. This is a very special project carefully planned to honor and celebrate the history and people of the past, present and future. I’ve had the pleasure of working on other such projects as the Dunedin Fine Art Center, the Dunedin Community Center and the Largo Public Library. I’m very happy to be a part of providing future generations of visitors and school children with such a wonderful resource and tribute to our city.


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