Born on January 14, 1846, into wealth and influence, James R. Mellon was the second son of Judge Thomas and Sarah Mellon.

He graduated from Jefferson College (since 1865 known as William & Jefferson College) in 1863 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After he graduated, his father sent him to Milwaukee to work as a clerk for a law firm due to poor health.

When his health improved, Judge Thomas Mellon instructed him to move back to Pittsburgh and start his career. On the way back home, James was instructed to stop in Leavenworth, Kansas to attend to a business matter. This is where he would meet Rachel H. Larimer and marry her on June 3, 1867.

Upon the suggestion of his father, James went into the coal business. Instead of James and his eldest brother Thomas, Jr. competing for business, they agreed to merge their businesses, which consisted of a nursery, lumber yard, and construction supply business. All of which were in high demand in Pittsburgh at the time. By the time he was 21, James and his brother had raised over $100,000. Following further in their father’s footsteps, the two brothers opened the savings bank, City Deposit Bank and is now part of BNY Mellon. James remained the president of the bank until his death.

To get away from the Pennsylvania winters, James and Rachel first started coming to Florida in the early 1880s. In 1883, they built a 6,000 square foot house and became very involved in the community. Especially supporting the local education system, first donating land for the Mellon School, which would later become Putnam High School.

Unfortunately, on May 7, 1991, at the age of 73, Rachel Mellon passed away upon her return to Pittsburgh. James continued to spend winters in Palatka and to honor her memory, he built the Larimer Memorial Library and donated it to the city. Now known as the Larimer Arts Center, it is home to the Art Council of Greater Palatka and houses local art galleries.

Sadly, James and Rachel’s heirs have abandoned the home and other than the Vose & Son’s piano all that remains are old wooden tennis rackets, vinyl records, a record player, and books that are thrown about. The walls and ceilings that are not crumbling have huge chunks of paint hanging from them.

Image of James R. Mellon's Vose & Son's square piano
Fortunately, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation has designated it to be one of 2019 Florida’s 11 to Save.

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