Dona Spain

Retiring Director, Historic Resources & Cultural Arts, Coral Gables

November 2019

Dona Spain began as a medical technologist at Mt. Sinai on Miami Beach, then moved to the Gables, where she got a B.A. in architecture and a Master’s in Town Design from UM. For the past 23 years she has worked for the city, mostly as the head of its Historic Preservation department (now called Historic Resources & Cultural Arts), with stints as Zoning Administrator and Assistant City Manager. In 2003, she was instrumental in making the Historic Preservation Board the final authority for historic protection of buildings and variations for homeowners, with only final appeals going to the City Commission

Latest Endeavors

Using a county grant, plus funds from the city and the Community Foundation, her department restored two homes in the MacFarlane Homestead Subdivision, the only part of Coral Gables listed in the National Register of Historic Places (it’s also a Local Historic District).

What She Says

“The hardest thing has been making historical significance determinations,” says Spain. “You really have to pick your battles, because it’s important to figure out what to save for future generations. You can’t save everything, and there has to be a balance [with development].” Asked which lost buildings have most broken her heart, she says, “There have been a few.” Most recently? “I am actually very upset about the 333 Catalina building,” the last remaining worker building in the city’s Craft Section. It was recently turned down for protection by the Historic Preservation Board she helped create, despite her recommendation to preserve it.