After the death of Reinette Long Hunt, her distant cousins John W. Ford and Josephine Alger took ownership of The Grove. Ford and Alger briefly continued to host travelers at the Grove Hotel in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In 1942, Ford and Alger offered The Grove up for sale and numerous parties expressed interest in the property. All other offers ceased when the lawyer and aspiring politician LeRoy Collins and his wife Mary expressed their desire to purchase the property.
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Mary Call Darby Collins was a direct descendent of Richard Keith Call. Although born in New York City, Mary Call spent much of her childhood at The Grove as well as another family home in Tallahassee owned by the Brevard family.
The son of a grocer, LeRoy Collins was born in Tallahassee in 1909. He married Mary Call in 1932. LeRoy Collins sought political office as a young man and was elected to the Florida House of Representatives at age 25. He later won a special election for governor in 1955 and served in that position until 1961.
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From left to right: Mary Call Darby Collins, Mary Call, LeRoy Collins holding Sarah Darby, Jane and LeRoy Jr.
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From left to right: Jane, Sarah Darby, Mary Call and Mary Call Darby Collins.
LeRoy, Mary Call and their children arrived at The Grove in November 1942 and immediately began restoring the house. One of the first tasks undertaken by the Collins family included painting over a sign near the road advertising hotel accommodations.
Other necessary work included the removal of partitions built by Reinette for the Grove Hotel. The bathrooms added to the east side of the home were also removed.
The Collins family added a large glass-enclosed "Florida room" on the north side of the building and also built an outdoor brick patio. The bricks for the patio were salvaged from Monroe Street, the major thoroughfare directly east of The Grove.
The Grove again became the center of political life in Tallahassee during the 1940s and 1950s.
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The patio in the foreground was built in the 1940s by the Collins family using bricks reclaimed from Monroe Street.
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The staircase in the main hallway of The Grove was modeled after the architecture of Andrew Jackson's Tennessee home, The Hermitage.
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The Collins family hosted numerous parties and social events at their home. During LeRoy Collins' inauguration party over 80 dignitaries, including several foreign ambassadors, attended a dinner and celebration at the home.
Mr. and Mrs. Collins also entertained a delegation of Seminole Indians shortly before the federal recognition of the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 1957.
In addition to gaining control of the house and about 10 acres of land, the Collins family unknowingly inherited a tenant. Robert Aldridge lived at The Grove along with Reinette Long Hunt, doing odd jobs.
LeRoy Collins recalled discovering Aldridge living behind a wall in the basement, apparently engaged in "wine and home brew production." After some discussion, Aldridge agreed to move to a cottage on the property but remained a fixture at The Grove during the Collins' tenure.
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LeRoy Collins lived sporadically at The Grove from 1942 through the late 1960s. Military service took LeRoy away from his family in Tallahassee to California during the latter stages of World War II.
When LeRoy was elected governor of Florida in 1955, the Collins family moved the short distance—perhaps 150 yards—from The Grove into the Governor's Mansion.
Shortly thereafter, the Governor's Mansion was slated to be demolished and rebuilt. The Collins family again made the short move back into The Grove, living there temporarily during construction of the new Mansion.
After the new Governor's Mansion was completed in 1957, the Collins family moved once again from The Grove into the executive home.
In 1960, as his time as governor neared an end, LeRoy Collins became head of the Democratic National Convention, taking him temporarily to Los Angeles.
During LeRoy's periodic absences between 1959 and 1963, The Grove opened to the public as a museum. James L. Cogar, former curator of colonial Williamsburg, leased the home from the Collins family. Cogar had previously worked on the restoration of The Grove in the 1940s after LeRoy and Mary purchased the home. Cogar charged admission and guided tours while Mary Call Collins and her children were in residence.
In 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Collins Director of the Community Relations Service. LeRoy relocated to Washington, D.C. following his appointment. When LeRoy lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in 1968, he returned to The Grove permanently.
While LeRoy delved into state and national politics, Mary Call became involved in the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. She served as Vice-Regent for Florida from 1961 to 1982. Mary Call contributed to the restoration efforts at George Washington's Mount Vernon home, lending expertise gained through her own experience restoring The Grove.
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Looking south from the driveway at The Grove towards the old Governor's Mansion.
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LeRoy Collins lost his 1968 campaign for U.S. Senate. He alienated segregationist politicians and voters with his controversial support of civil rights for African-Americans. As governor of Florida, Collins clashed with members of the Florida legislature who wanted to stop integration following the historic Brown v. Topeka, Kansas Board of Education ruling in 1954.
Governor Collins wrote that efforts by the legislature to defend segregation constituted an "evil thing, whipped up by the demagogues and carried on the hot and erratic winds of passion, prejudice, and hysteria." (See Interposition Resolution in Response to Brown v. Board of Education, 1957.)
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After his career in politics ended, LeRoy returned to practicing law in Tallahassee. He and Mary Call lived at The Grove and at their vacation home on Dog Island, a barrier island off the coast of the Florida Panhandle.
LeRoy devoted considerable time to writing and produced Forerunners Courageous (1971), a collection of historical essays on Florida pioneer history. The book sold well and helped the Collins family retain ownership of The Grove during their later years.
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Front row, left to right: John Begeman, Christopher Begeman, and Douglas Begeman. Back row, left to right: Dr. Frederick Begeman, H. Palmer Proctor Jr., Edward Sisson Collins, LeRoy Collins III, LeRoy Collins Proctor, LeRoy Collins Jr., H. Palmer Proctor, and John K. Aurell.