|Joseph McDonald and James McGuire The Builders
Joseph Albert McDonald was born at Prince Edward Island, Canada, February 13, 1842. His
father was James McDonald and mother Ann McKinnon. In 1870 he married Miss Elizabeth
Wallace. James A. McGuire was from New England. Joseph was born in the Province of Prince
Edward Island. He started in the business of ship carpentering for twelve years.
In 1870 he married Elizabeth Wallace of Derby, CN. Joseph McDonald came to Florida in 1881 and
established his business partnership with James McGuire. He built Episcopal Church of the Holy
Cross in Sanford and Good Shepherd Episcopal in Maitland. He built the St. Mary's Episcopal
Church in Green Cove Springs. In Green Cove Springs, Seavey contracted with him to build the
Magnolia Hotel on the St. Johns River. In 1881 after forming a business partnership with James
McGuire, they built the Seminole Hotel in Winter Park and the Clarendon Hotel in Green Cove
Springs. The McGuire and McDonald Company also built the San Marco Hotel that Henry Flagler
visited in St. Augustine. Before the Ponce de Leon was started they built the Seminole Hotel in Winter
For Henry Flagler, the firm built the Ponce de Leon (1888), Alcazar (1888), Union Station in St.
Augustine (1888), Kirkside (1893), Ormond (1891), Royal Ponciana (1895), The Royal Palm in
Miami (1897), The Colonial in Nassau, Bahamas (1899), and The Breakers (1905).
McDonald became a St. Augustine Alderman in the 1890 city elections. When the Royal Palm in
Miami was built, McDonald was in charge of the entire construction; plans, specifications, design, and
arrangements were all under his supervision. In 1896 in Miami, McDonald built the Biscayne Hotel for
himself and established the J. A. McDonald Lumber Company in 1902. He was the president of
Halcyon Hall Hotel Company and vice-president of the Miami Transfer Company. He was a
Democrat, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, Knights of Columbus, Jacksonville Lodge of
Elks and the Jacksonville Seminole Club.
In 1896 John B. Reilly, the son-in-law of Joseph McDonald became the first mayor of Miami. John
was a member of the Board of Directors of the Biscayne Bay Bank. John's son and McDonald's
grandson was the first white child born in the city of Miami. On July 8, 1907 Joseph McDonald was
elected President of the bank and remained President until January 10, 1910 when he became
chairman of the Board. He was chairman of the board until his death in 1918.
The McGuire and McDonald Company had offices in the Ponce de Leon Hotel after it opened. In the
company's long career they also completed the following hotels in Florida: Sanford House (Sanford),
Seminole Hotel (Winter Park), Hotel Ormond (Ormond Beach), and The Continental (Atlantic
Beach). In addition, they built the Hotel Royal Victoria and the Hotel Colonial in Nassau, and the
water works in St. Augustine and Palm BeachThe firm built a home for James Ingraham in St.
Augustine and Henry Flagler's residences in St. Augustine and Palm Beach, Kirkside and Whitehall,
James McGuire stayed in St. Augustine and Flagler called on him for all kinds of repairs or
supervision of repairs. The firm had some other interesting business opportunities as they held the
liquor licenses for the Alcazar and the San Marco Hotel in 1889.McGuire also became the builder
and owner of the Valencia Hotel in St. Augustine in 1891. McGuire supervised the early repairs to the
Ponce de Leon, rebuilding the Casino after the fire, and the addition to the Alcazar. In the early
1900s, he supervised construction of the mausoleum addition to Memorial Presbyterian Church and
other extensive repairs made to the Church and manse. Both McGuire and McDonald were active
pallbearers at Henry Flagler's funeral. McGuire was given $10,000 in the Flagler will
Obituary of Joseph A. McDonald in the Miami Herald, Wednesday, November 6, 1918, page 1
Joseph McDonald Dies
At His Home Here
Death came at 12:30 pm
Yesterday, Ending a Long
And Brilliant Career As A
Builder and Developer on
Florida East Coast
Joseph Albert McDonald, an early pathfinder of the Florida East Coast passed quietly away
yesterday at 12:30 pm at the residence of his son-in-law, John B. Reilly, on Avenue B. He had been
in failing health for the past six months and was confined to his room for eight weeks before
succumbing to arteriosclerosis.
It is for his indomitable persistence and tireless energy, displayed a quarter of a century ago in the
building of the seven palatial winter hotels of the Florida East Coast system, that he is best known to a
multitude of friends; but there is an inner circle who revere the man whom business success failed to
spoil and who was ever ready to help the needy.
This representative Miamin was born in the early fifties in the Canadian providence of Prince Edward
Island. He relied upon experience to furnish his education, as his schooling was limited, being
confined to the public school of his native town. Practically every one followed the sea in those days,
and, while quite a youth, he learned the trade of a ship carpenter, which he followed twelve years.
Five of these were spent in the United States, where he located in Derby, Connecticut. In 1870 Mr.
McDonald married Miss Elizabeth Wallace, and in ten years before they migrated to Florida, three
children were born, only one of whom is now living.
In the early eighties the family moved to Florida, where the rugged Canadian, use to the arctic winters
of Prince Edward Island was soon to accomplish the seemingly impossible in a semitropical country.
After a partnership covering five years with J. P. McGuire, who died in Brooklyn in September,
Henry M. Flagler appeared and the first link in the huge winter hotel enterprises was undertaken. Just
as the far-sighted vision of Mr. Flagler was essential to success, it required a lieutenant of Joseph
McDonald's caliber to meet and overcome the natural difficulties of the undertaking.
While the construction of the Ponce de Leon and Alcazar hotels at St. Augustine were the initial links
in the string, it was the amazing enterprise of the Royal Poincianna in 1893 that demanded the last
ounce of this Scottish Canadian's ingenuity to carry to completion. To fully appreciate the difficulties
involved, it must be remembered that the entire Florida Atlantic coast from Jacksonville southward
was a jungle, trackless except for an occasional hamlet and the Seminole runways through the low
country. The railroad, that had been finished as far south as Cocoa, was of little use in transporting
supplies. All materials for the Palm Beach hotelry was loaded upon flat boats and floated down the
Indian River. It was not until the hotel had closed its first season that the railroad was finally in running
order to Palm Beach. This has long been the largest resort hotel in the world and the task of furnishing
it, provisioning it and bringing its guests by water can readily be imagined. However, the building of
the structure was an infinitely harder problem.
Of the chain of Flagler hotels, the two at St. Augustine were first built under Mr. McDonald's
supervision in 1881; then followed the oceanfront development at Ormond ten years later; in 1893,
the Royal Poincianna and shortly afterward the Breakers at Palm Beach. A year later, in 1896, the
Royal Palm, here in Miami, was begun, while the only hotel constructed by Mr. Flagler upon foreign
soil, the Colonial, at Nassau, Bahamas, immediately following the Spanish-American war, completed
the system. In the evolution of this gigantic undertaking, Mr. McDonald had the cooperation of his
partner, J. P. McGuire. The Breakers burned in 1905 and was rebuilt the same year. The palatial
White Hall, the winter home of Florida's railroad wizard, was completed in 1901 by this firm.
With his retirement from building hotels, he did not step out entirely but identified himself in 1896 with
the infant town of Miami. While a member of the first city council, he built for himself the Biscayne
hotel, and from then on until his exit from active business, Mr. McDonald accomplished in a way for
Miami what Henry Flagler did for the state. In 1902 he organized the J. A. McDonald Lumber
Company, of which he was President, he also headed the Halcyon Hall Hotel Company for several
years, and was at one time vice-president of the Miami Transfer Company and at the time of his
death, was chairman of the board of directors of the Bank of Biscayne.
His interest in the progress of Miami was unfailing. He took a prominent part in the work of
organizing and incorporating the infant city, and was a city council member for the first three years of
the town's history. As an intimate of Mr. Flagler, he was in no small way responsible for the
improvements inaugurated here by the financier.
He was a very devout Roman Catholic and a beloved member of the Miami lodge of Knights of
Columbus. This society will hold special exercises tomorrow morning at ten, the time set for the
funeral. Mr. McDonald was also prominent as a Miami Elk and member of the Seminole Club, of
Joseph A. McDonald is survived by a daughter, Mrs. John B. Reilly, carrying his name in France is an
elder grandson, Joseph A. Reilly, US Marine Corps, while Wallace Reilly is attending the Staunton
Military Academy in Virginia. He also has a granddaughter, Miss Eleanor Reilly.
|Picture from Florida Heritage Collection
|Joseph McDonald and James McGuire
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