NEWPORT BEACH— Dennis Holland, the architectural mastermind behind the rebuild of the Shawnee, has died. He was 68
Holland passed away Monday, May 12 after a seven year battle with prostate cancer. The master shipwright and longtime Newport Beach resident used his passion for shipbuilding to persevere through trying times.
“He was all about living his dream,” said lifelong friend and family spokesman Eric Longabardi. “His crossover appeal to everyone was his inspiration.”
Holland, who was born in Seattle and was part of the first graduating class at Corona del Mar High School, married his high school sweetheart, Betty, and put down roots in Orange County to further develop his passion for shipbuilding.
He spent the better part of 12 years toiling with the sizeable topsail schooner, an American Revolution reworking once named The Pilgrim of Newport. He began construction on the ship, which was built in the yard next to his home, in 1970, before launching the vessel in 1983. It cost him more than $150,000, according to The Log archives, and Longabardi said Holland and his family lived on the vessel for approximately seven years to finance the costs. The ship, now known as the Spirit of Dana Point, has become an icon at the Ocean Institute docks.
Holland also worked on a 1916 honeymoon yacht, which quickly morphed into a controversial restoration project. Shawnee, a 72-foot ketch, was a staple in Holland’s life. He would often see the ship while visiting his grandparents in San Francisco and kept track of it over the years until it was sold to famed Orange County silversmith, Allan Adler. When Adler passed, Holland chose to restore it. In 2006, he moved the boat into his side yard after receiving approval from the Newport Beach City Council.
“It’s kind of a love affair,” Holland admitted to The Log at the time.
However, with the ship’s bow projecting toward the street and his neighbors views impeded—the vessel stood 25 feet above street level—the city placed a restrictive timeline on the project, opening a feud between Holland, council members and neighbors, which lasted for years.
“I have been harassed to the point that I can’t believe,” Holland told The Log at the time. “But I have received a lot of public support, which helps me feel better and makes me want to charge on.”
Following a lawsuit and a temporary injunction, Newport Beach city officials said construction was in violation of the city’s long-term boat storage and construction permit requirements. Holland was forced to disassemble the ship, removing the ribs. The keel, as Longabardi said, remains in the yard today.
“With the medical problems that he had, he was out there working on that ship every day,” Longabardi said. “He was doing real work and I was amazed.”
Holland is survived by his wife, Betty; son Dennis Holland Jr., 28; daughters Julie Karges, 39, Heidi Eadie, 37, and Amy Holland, 31; and 10 grandchildren.
A memorial service was held May 19 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in his honor.
The June 1 Balboa Island Parade will include a Pilgrim of Newport Float in honor of Holland, Longabardi said.