The Inspiration

IRVING CECIL CROSS
ALZADA & IRVING CROSS

IRVING CECIL CROSS

September 7, 1927 – June 15, 2008
The namesake of The Irving Downtown is Irving Cecil Cross – also known as Mr. Wonderful – the much loved and missed maternal grandfather of Rebekah Barney, developer of The Irving and founder of the Alzada Company, which takes its name from Barney’s grandmother Alzada Cross, Irving’s wife of 58 years.

Irving was born September 7, 1927 in Massachusetts. At the age of 15, he was forced to quit school and go to work at the Goat Island Naval Torpedo Station in Newport, RI, and after he turned 18, he enlisted in the United States Army, serving from December 1945 to April 1947.

It was in 1949 that Irving met Alzada at a corner drugstore in Fall River, Mass. – she was working behind the soda fountain and he was playing pinball with his friends. At the time, Irving was the youngest licensed electrician in town and drove a bright-yellow Jeepster, and it wasn’t long before they fell in love and were married in February of 1950; six children soon followed, and then 10 grandchildren.

Irving passed away on Father’s Day in 2008, just one day after meeting his and Alzada’s newborn twin great-granddaughters – their very first great-grandchildren – and he is missed every day. Alzada still lives in the Cross family home in Swansea, Mass.

The Inspiration

THIS UNDATED PHOTO IS ASSUMED TO BE FIVE OF THE VIVAS CHILDREN STANDING IN FRONT OF THE VIVAS HOME. (SWFL HISTORICAL SOCIETY)
THIS PHOTO TAKEN CA. 1929 SHOWS MATRIARCH CHRISTIANA VIVAS (CENTER) SURROUNDED BY AT LEAST THREE OF HER DAUGHTERS. THE BUILDING IN THE BACKDROP IS THE OLD ROYAL PALM HOTEL. (SWFL HISTORICAL SOCIETY)

THE VIVAS FAMILY

The Irving Downtown also draws inspiration from the history of the land and the people who first made it a home.

In 1866, soon after the end of the Civil War, newlyweds Jose Vivas and Christiana Stirrup set sail from bustling Key West for the abandoned Union Army outpost of Fort Myers as part of the extended, blended, immigrant family of fabled Fort Myers founder Manuel Gonzalez.

From 1867 to 1888, Joe and Anna, as they came to be called, had nine children, seven of which survived to adulthood – Amelia; Adalaida, who died as a teenager; Frances; Santiago; Annie; Rosa; Leonora; Josephine; and Norman, who died as an infant. Amelia and Annie were widowed young and never remarried or had children, and the three youngest daughters never married or had children. Frances married young and raised four children in Lakeland and Orlando, FL, and Santiago, the only surviving son, married a descendant from another founding family, the McNeills, and had three children, whom they raised in nearby Olga, FL.

There was at least one Vivas living on the property for almost 100 years, until the home was sold in 1959. It was demolished soon after, and news articles from the time mention plans for an office building, but the property has remained a parking lot for 62 years.

The Irving’s floor plans are named in honor of the four Vivas children who were born, raised, and lived most or much of their life on the family land – the firstborn child, Amelia, and the three youngest, Rosa, Leonora, and Josephine.

VIVAS FAMILY HISTORY

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