Architecture in the Family

After over 50 years and more than 1,000 projects, Donofro Architects is still changing the face of Marianna

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Chipola College Health Sciences building
Courtesy of Donofro Architects

In recent decades, multi-generational local businesses have become increasingly rare. But at Donofro Architects, it’s all about staying small and keeping close contact — with the community and each other.

Donofro Architects has been a Marianna fixture since 1963, when Paul A. Donofro moved to the area to be closer to his brother, Joseph (also an architect), in Alabama. Their family was originally from Buffalo, New York, but the chance to be near his brother — and the potential he saw in the area — attracted Donofro, now 84. His sons Paul and Sean Donofro work with him at the firm, which they renamed Donofro Architects when ownership transferred to Paul Jr. They’ve kept the business small and, more importantly, kept it in the family. Now, with Paul Jr.’s son Christopher studying architecture at Florida A&M University, the business might have yet another generation lined up.

Paul Donofro Jr. looks over plans 
Courtesy of Donofro Architects

Paul Donofro Sr. was in the U.S. Army before relocating to Florida for school, studying architecture at the University of Florida. After graduation, he relocated to Marianna. His brother, Joseph, was already practicing architecture out of Dothan, Alabama. Joseph has since passed away, but his son, Joe Jr., now runs the Alabama business. Similarly, Paul Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and studied to be an architect. His interest was cultivated after years of going to job sites with his father and working at the firm.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into construction or architecture,” Paul Donofro Jr. reflected. “But growing up, I worked in (my father’s) office from the time I was probably in seventh or eighth grade doing blueprinting … I remember we had an old blueprint machine that ran off of ammonia in the old office. I had to stay back there for hours and hours running prints one at a time, and the ammonia fumes were very strong.”

In 10th grade, Donofro recalls he designed and developed his first set of plans for a geography teacher. That building is still up today.

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