By Ann Witmer
The largest event spaces in Tallahassee — the Duesenberg and Cord banquet halls, each 15,000 square feet — are not where you’d expect to find them. But then the Tallahassee Automobile Museum is one surprise after another.
It’s the creation of DeVoe Moore, millionaire developer, philanthropist and crusader for free enterprise, a mission that he touts with a plaque at the museum entrance and a 15-foot Uncle Sam statue on the front lawn.
“I was in construction. Environmental rules got so hard that I stopped. I liked old cars and needed something to do,” he said in classic understatement.
That was 12 years ago. Moore’s museum now houses a priceless collection of 140 cars, as well as Steinway pianos, outboard motors, Case knives, cash registers, fishing lures and everything else that has caught the fancy of this determined, feisty man over the years.
Moore has traveled from Seattle to Maine, from Montana to Texas to retrieve a collection of cars that includes a Trans Am with 10 miles on it, a Packard with 8,000 miles, an 1894 Duryea (the first car built in America) and one of Evel Knievel’s stunt bikes.
He has the Tucker that crashed in the movie of the same name and some of Batman’s Batmobiles He has a 1932 schoolbus, the first Florida highway patrol car, the first Dodge Viper and a car Henry Ford made for his 15-year-old grandson.
Moore also has the truck he used when he was a farrier shoeing horses to earn money for college.
That college was Florida State University (FSU), and he’s been generous to his alma mater, donating more than $30 million to the school. The DeVoe Moore Center in the College of Social Sciences aims to “increase understanding of the role of government in a market economy.” This June, the FSU Board of Trustees renamed the University Center after him.
Lately, Moore’s fancy has turned to meetings and banquets. In addition to Duesenberg Hall, his museum has two long windowed rooms for meetings of up to 150. The new Cord Banquet Hall opened in October. It can seat 850 or be divided into thirds.
Moore’s nine-hole, par-3 Cross Creek golf course across the street from the museum, with a three-tier driving range, has space for a banquet or meeting for up to 200 in the clubhouse.