Preservationist, Community Volunteer
Frances MacIntyre, 85, is a giant among preservationists in Coral Gables and the community at large. She has been a charter member of the historic preservation group The Villagers for 56 years, and in 1972 led the effort to create the Dade Heritage Trust, serving as its first president and, later, on its Board of Trustees. She also helped found the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, receiving their Distinguished Service Award in 2004.
Among her many awards was the DHT’s Henriette Harris Award (2003), the Women of Impact Award from the Women’s History Coalition (2008), and the State of Florida’s Mary Call Darby Collins Award (2012) for her work “that has forever changed the course of historic preservation in Florida.” She also served for eight years on the Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board and served several terms on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Lowe Art Museum. She lived for most of the past two decades in the French Normandy Village, recently relocating to live with her daughter.
In March of this year, MacIntyre received the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Historic Preservation Medal. The award was given in recognition of her years of preservation advocacy, including leading the efforts to save and preserve Miami’s oldest residence, the 1855 William Wagner Homestead; to preserve the 1905 Dr. Jackson Office in Downtown Miami (now headquarters for the Dade Heritage Trust); and to save the 1912 Warner House (now home to the Miami Hispanic Ballet).
“Dolly has devoted her lifetime to activism. She has been the true leader of historic preservation in the South Florida community,” says Marlin Ebbert, Dade Heritage Trust member and tour docent at the Biltmore Hotel. “She is a preservationist extraordinaire.”
What She Says
“I don’t want to be pessimistic. I’m going to be optimistic, because there are still a lot of people in favor of saving our heritage, and ultimately I have to believe we are going to win,” says MacIntyre. “It shouldn’t be a fight. It should be a cooperative effort. All these white boxes aren’t improving our health.”
As far as the value of preservation, she says, “It’s about our sense of roots, our sense of belonging. It’s memory, and the story of our community and our predecessors.” Besides, she says, “Most historic neighborhoods are lovely.” While MacIntyre lauds Coral Gables as “certainly the number one city in the county for preserving its heritage,” she adds that “it’s still a struggle here. Developers keep coming in and taking over.”