It was only appropriate that when Bob DeLongchamp, his sister Pamela and Bob’s wife Judy chose to surprise their father with a party commemorating his 90 years in the world, the event would take place at Curtiss Mansion.
On Sunday, Dec. 15, lots of folks turned out at the Mansion to honor a longtime historian of Miami Springs — Chuck DeLongchamp. It was Chuck DeLongchamp back in 1998 who helped spearhead the drive to rescue a “nearly burned-to-the-ground” Curtiss Mansion and raise the necessary funds to rebuild and refurbish.
Appropriately 90 people showed up, including family members from as far away as Michigan that night to honor DeLongchamp, a World War II veteran and retired general contractor. One of those was Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia.
Garcia dropped by with a special birthday gift for DeLongchamp — an official proclamation declaring Dec. 15, 2013 as “Chuck DeLongchamp Day” in Miami Springs.
“In a word, I guess I would have to say I was floored,” Chuck said when asked to describe his feelings over all of the fuss made over him turning 90. “I was certainly glad and excited that it was held at the Mansion because anyone who knows me knows how near and dear that place is to my heart. It’s scary to think that they almost took a bulldozer to that place many years ago and it is too important a part of this city’s history to ever come down.”
In addition to the proclamation from the mayor, DeLongchamp was treated to a series of poster collages from his kids looking back at his life and his impact on Miami Springs, where he has been a resident since 1948.
“Curtiss Mansion is a special place for him, so it was always our idea to hold the event there,” said son Bob DeLongchamp. “My dad was one of the first people that wanted to save it (after the fire) because he knew what a valuable historic landmark it was.”
So was he surprised?
“My kids told me they were just taking me over there to look at a few things,” said Chuck. “When I got there, there were a few people I knew there but I didn’t really understand or realize what was going on. Next thing you know, a few more people start walking in, then a few more and a few more. Next thing you know we got darn near a hundred people in there.”
Chuck DeLongchamp came to Miami Springs with his wife, Dee, and 1-year-old son Bobby in 1948 after serving in the Army Air Corps during WWII.
His first project was the house he still resides in on Cardinal Street. While learning the building trades working on the hotels being built on Miami Beach, he attended night school at the University of Miami to earn his general contractor’s license.
He eventually started Springs Construction in 1954 and was active in the Miami Springs and Dade County area during the boom years of the 1950s and ’60s.
Over a course of 30 years, DeLonchamp completed many projects for homeowners, commercial properties and city projects. Many of these projects are right here in Miami Springs and still in place today.
DeLongchamp’s impressive résumé includes the Miami Springs Public Works building, the conversion of the Battle Creek hotel to the Fair Havens Retirement Center, the Miami Springs Senior Center, the commercial renovations to the original Curtiss Mansion, connecting hundreds of Miami Springs homes to the new sewer system in the 1970s, and the “Welcome to Miami Springs” entrance signage.
Also of note, DeLongchamp was one of the founders of the Miami Springs Chamber of Commerce and served as president in 1958 and he has been a member of the Lions Club since 1957 and has held every office, including president.
He “retired” in the ’80s but remained active in the community through attending city council meetings and, of course, supporting the restoration of the Curtiss Mansion over the past 15 years.
“Quite a night and I really appreciate everyone who came out to see me,” said Chuck. “We had a lot of fun.”