Dunedin History Notes: The seven Malone brothers

Shown are the seven Malone Brothers: Top row from the left are John Walter, Edwin Theodore and James Scott. Bottom row from left are Levi Harrison, Hezikiah, William Lewis and Charles Oscar. They lived on Victoria Drive.

During the 1880s through the early 1900s in Dunedin, many wealthy and prominent families lived on a ruddy unpaved dirt road by the water’s edge of St. Josephs Sound known as Victoria Drive. Many locals were acquainted with the Joneses, Skinners, Somervilles, Hannas and the McMasters, who are the parents of our local Dunedin celebrity golf-cart, horn-blowing driver 90-year-old Freddie Webb.

But there was one particular family that lived on the waterfront street known as the “Seven Malone Brothers.” To me, it always sounds like a great movie title for a Hollywood movie. Charles Oscar, who was the eldest of the family, was a successful business partner with his brothers in the concrete cement business in Cleveland, Ohio.

They built most of the prominent cement buildings and roads in Cleveland and were starting to look for a winter retreat. Charles had just arrived by boat from Cedar Key and stopped in Dunedin for the night and was staying at the Jones’s family Blue Moon Inn on that same street.

In the morning Charles walked down the road and fell in love with the available properties and especially the rights to the waterfront. You see, all seven brothers were avid yachtsmen and all loved to go out sailing in their yachts and Charles saw this as the perfect place. Charles’ yacht was even called the Cleveland. When Charles contacted the remaining six brothers, James, Levi, Walter, William, John, and Hezikiah, he convinced all of them to purchase property on this street. allowing them waterfront rights to build their own personal boat docks.

Everything looked like it was going to work out until the wife of Levi found out about the plan to winter in Florida. You see Mrs. Levi Malone considered the whole state of Florida a swamp and bug-infested wasteland and had no intentions of living there even on a seasonal basis.

Within a short time the remaining six sisters-in-law, who by the way were also not big fans of Mrs. Levi, convinced her to agree to the plan. However, the only way Mrs. Levi would agree to accept the new winter homestead was if she could build the house of her choice on the corner lot property that was close to the Yacht Club Inn, the fanciest new hotel in Dunedin. This would allow her to go there with an escort for her daily formal lunches and dinners.

The final things Mrs. L.H. demanded was that she be allowed to name the street they were to live on if they had to “live in the sticks.” And so from then on it was known as Victoria Drive. Mrs. L.H. Malone named it after Queen Victoria, the British monarch who she greatly admired, and Malone felt that would bring some regalness and respectability to the street.

Once the Malone families built their new homes, all would gather together and go sailing in the early morning and early evening after dinner and sail to the northwest side of Caladesi Island, where they had purchased a small little island, naming it Malone Island. They built a picnic hut and beach dock so they and their friends could go for picnic and holiday events. Eventually Mr. L.H. Malone was named commodore of the Yacht Club and donated the Malone Competitive Cup trophy that was awarded to a member of the club during the winter racing season while they vacationed there. The winner would retain the trophy until the next year’s racing event and then transfer it to the next winner.

Today, if you walk down Victoria Drive, be sure to see the remaining four of the original Malone homes that still exist and all the other beautiful homes along the waterfront. Just remember — the road is still left unpaved as it was more than100 years ago when Mrs. Levi H. Malone first set eyes on it.

Vinnie Luisi is director of the Dunedin History Museum.