Richard Shine left legacy of historic buildings in Tallahassee

March 24th, 2016 by Red Hills

Richard Shine

published in Tallahassee Democrat, March 2016

Goodwood, the 1845 Capitol, First Presbyterian Church, the Bloxham House and the Chittenden House were all built by Richard Alexander Shine. There were many other public buildings and fine residences that no longer stand that were built by Shine in Tallahassee. Yet he is remembered only by a few, mostly historians or researchers, who find his name on old deeds.  I discovered him doing research for Goodwood Museum & Gardens over 20 years ago, while I was an intern there.

Richard A. Shine was a builder, brick manufacturer, merchant and planter, as well as a church leader, politician, and militia officer. He has no memorial for his contributions to the development of Tallahassee. The importance of Shine and the legacy of his buildings have been forgotten or ignored.

The inscription on the closure tablet for the Shine family tomb in Tallahassee’s Old City Cemetery says that Richard A. Shine was born on June 23, 1810, and died on Dec. 29, 1862. No account of Shine’s death has been found. He died during the Civil War when newspapers were scarce and there is no printed obituary. Shine had a relatively short life, but it was a full one, enriched by the birth of 12 children and by personal wealth resulting from his success as a builder and businessman.

Shine was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, and married Mary Ann Maultsby from Fayetteville. They moved to Tallahassee in 1830 to the new land of opportunity — the Florida Territory. Shine quickly became active in the Tallahassee community, and contributed to its physical and political development.

There are several references to Shine’s physical appearance and to his character. A 1903 article on early businessmen of Tallahassee provided a flattering picture.

[He] was an early citizen and of the best, being an all round man. He never allowed politics to interfere with business, although he was an active and popular partisan and legislator, when party lines were drawn tight, and each side found it necessary to nominate its strongest men. He was tall and well proportioned, hair light, eyes blue, face open and cheery, complexion clear, movement brisk, good fellowship pronounced, and an eye to business. Naturally his personal friends were from all classes….  He was enriched by the birth of many children to him, as he was impoverished by the early deaths of several; those of them who abide in our community, or elsewhere, emulate his worthy example and characteristics.”

Shine, an accomplished builder and a prosperous businessman, had a brickyard east of town near Goodwood. This was 50 acres in the tract of land known as the brickyard field, described in Shine’s probate records as “contiguous to Tallahassee on the road leading from Tallahassee to Miccosukee.” In 1934, Evelyn Whitfield Henry wrote in the “Tallahassee Historical Society Annual” that the brick for many of Tallahassee’s old houses were made by Shine in his brickyard, “on the town side of the ‘deep cut’; ruins of the old kilns are still to be seen.”

The deep cut, which can be seen on Magnolia Drive near the Tallahassee Democrat, was engineered by Shine in 1857 for the Pensacola and Georgia railroad in eastern Tallahassee.

In 1843, there was a terrible fire in Tallahassee that destroyed or damaged a seven-block area of the downtown district including several residences. The City Council passed an ordinance requiring all new building in the burnt district to be of brick or stone. In August 1843, the Sentinel reported, “Messrs. Bull and Shine are now engaged in rebuilding the block known as Wyatt’s building.”

Some aspect of several important buildings in Tallahassee can be attributed to Shine. He provided the brick for the building, was its brick mason, or was the contractor. Shine was awarded the contract to produce the bricks used for the First Presbyterian Church. He also built the original Trinity Methodist Church and St. Mary’s Catholic Church, neither of which still exists.

Prior to the contract for the 1845 Capitol, Shine was given the contract for tearing down the original capitol building. The materials, including the windows, were apparently used by Shine when he built the Chittenden House at 323 E. Park Avenue in the 1840s. It is now the Park Avenue Inn. The Bloxham House at 410 N. Calhoun St. was built by Shine in 1844 and served as the official residence for Gov. William D. Bloxham during his two terms in office. It is now for sale.

The main house of Goodwood Museum and Gardens has been restored to its 1920s Colonial Revival appearance. But, Goodwood was originally built in the Italianate style by Shine from 1837-1840. Shine used his brick for the building of the house, covering it with stucco to simulate stonework. The similar appearance of the Brokaw-McDougal House on North Meridian, which still retains its Italianate features, has lead to speculation that Shine built this house as well.

Shine must have died suddenly because he died without a will. Such an oversight was unlikely for a man who had acquired so much personal wealth and who rented office space to lawyers. His estate was probated within weeks of his death and was valued at $51,000.

The list of Richard A Shine’s known accomplishments is quite impressive for any of Tallahassee’s pioneers. Shine, overlooked for many years, should be acknowledged for his contributions to Tallahassee as a citizen, businessman and premier ante-bellum builder.

Rose Rodriguez is the Communications Director for Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy, and a long-time volunteer at Goodwood Museum & Gardens, where she interned while a graduate student at FSU. Exploring the Red Hills writers share stories celebrating the historical, cultural and ecological wonders of the Red Hills Region. More information at redhillsregion.org

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