Monthly Archives: June 2015

Let’s Go Historic House Hunting!

by Betsy Owens

Even if you’re not in the market for a home, it sure is fun to window shop.  And if you’re like me, you regularly go to, punch in home age “over 51 years” and a zip code in the search terms, and salivate like a Pavlovian dog as you wait to see what the search yields.  Come with me as we explore a Winter Park historic home for every pocketbook–from a Birkin bag to a Canal Street knockoff:

1700 Alabama Drive, Unit 3 ∼ 3579 sq. ft.∼ $1.2 MillionIS999q42c1ypya0000000000

At the pricier end of the spectrum, we have the dreamy Packwood-Temple House, on the grounds of the Alabama Hotel condominiums. If walls could talk, this house could tell you quite a bit about Winter Park history—when the list of the former owners reads like a Winter Park/Maitland street map, you know the house is historic. In addition to Central Florida pioneer George Packwood and former Mayor William Temple, the house was owned by Edward Palmer (as in the Avenue) and Joseph Kroenenberger (who platted the subdivision on which the house now sits).  And here’s the amazing thing: the HOA stipulates that maintenance of the entire exterior of the house and grounds are covered by the condo association—so you’ve got a fabulous, 3500 sq. ft. 4/4 single family home with all the benefits of living in a condo.  Nice!   Yes, you pay a monthly $750 condo fee, but try living in a house this size in the Vias and taking care of your landscaping and home maintenance for less than this. Most of the original 1878 Victorian charm of the home is intact…the woodwork! The leaded glass windows! The wraparound porch with Victorian detailing! In addition to retaining so much authenticity, the house has been updated with a truly lovely gourmet kitchen—and can’t you just see yourself having your morning coffee in the window-walled turreted breakfast room?  Plus, you’re across the street from Lake Maitland, a stone’s throw from Kraft Azalea Gardens, and can rent a boat slip for $750 per year.  Strange as it sounds, at $1.2 million, this almost seems too good to be true.


Shall we have a spot of lemonade before croquet?



Shall we have our morning coffee here?

Shall we have our morning coffee here?

Or here?

Or here?

I know it sounds crazy, but just $1.2?

I know it sounds crazy, but just $1.2?

Click here for full Alabama Drive listing

735 McIntyre Avenue∼2340 sq. ft. ∼ $675,000

Talk about curb appeal

Talk about curb appeal

This house was on Casa Feliz’s 2015 Colloquium Tour, and it’s impeccable.  Located in the College Quarter neighborhood, the 1940s traditional looks like it’s straight out of Central Casting for “charming American home.”  It’s been pretty thoroughly updated on the inside, but not so much that you feel like a time traveler when you cross the threshold. The rooms are smallish, but the house has a charming back patio with pool which expands the living space.  Plus, it’s got a large rental unit over the garage that could easily rent for $1,000/mo.   Lots of homes advertise “Walk to Park Avenue,” but for this one, it’s true: who wouldn’t love living just 5 short blocks from the Winter Park Farmer’s Market in one of Winter Park’s most picturesque neighborhoods? Check it out.

living room

living room

cozy sunroom

cozy sunroom

Click here for McIntyre listing

1355 Devon Road ∼ 1817 sq. ft. ∼ $439,900:


For years, I have walked by and drooled over this Orwin Manor Tudor Revival home, listed on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places.  Someone needs to buy this house to keep me from buying it.  I actually toured it a couple months ago and may just have made an offer if I thought it could accommodate my husband’s grandmother’s baby grand piano, and my grandparents’ dining room furniture, neither of which we’re emotionally ready to part with.  That said, the  3-bedroom house seems plenty spacious, and in the tradition of Sarah Susanka’s “Not So Big” philosophy, the house lives large.  It’s sensitively updated—to me, there’s nothing worse than walking into a house that’s 90 years old on the outside, to find it’s been scrubbed of all its original charm on the inside.  Gorgeous French doors separating rooms, lovely woodwork, window seats, hardwood floors, glass door knobs—they’re all still here, while the bathrooms and kitchen have been appropriately updated. Plus, at less than $450K, I think it’s a steal. Seriously. Someone buy this house.


Scrumptious, right?

Open floor plan AND historic bones? Pinch me!

Open floor plan AND historic bones? Pinch me!

Did I mention the woodwork?

Did I mention the woodwork?

Click here for Devon listing

2600 Old Winter Park Road  ∼ 1525 sq. ft. ∼ $349,900


This house is not only precious, it’s a great investment.  With the burgeoning Audubon Park/Corrine Drive neighborhood within walking distance, Park Avenue within easy biking distance, and downtown Orlando a 10-minute drive away, this 1925 Mediterranean supports the maxim, “the smaller your house, the larger your world.” Also on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places, the 3/2 has a stunning living room with Cathedral ceiling accented by heart pine cross-beams, many original windows, a wonderful woodburning fireplace, hardwood floors, and plaster walls accented with built-in nooks and crannies. A free-standing two-car garage is connected to the house by a breezeway.  While I wish that the kitchen and bathrooms had been updated in a more period-appropriate style, most folks aren’t as obnoxiously priggish about such things as I. This is the perfect house for young professionals or couples looking to downsize.

Authenticity in spades

Authenticity in spades

This house built when people cared about detail - on all four sides.

This house built when people cared about detail – on all four sides.

Click Here for Winter Park Road listing

1675 North Orange Avenue ∼ 1177 sq. ft. ∼ $295,000

Seriously cool plaster

So this one is a fixer-upper, but it’s priced accordingly.  Built in 1922, this  2/1 Mediterranean is a 5 minute drive from both downtown Winter Park and downtown Orlando (well, on Sunday morning, anyway).  The house has good bones and nifty architectural features—check out the living room fireplace and the dining room ceiling. You’ll have to spend another $100K to get this house ship-shape (for starters, the living room floorboards are buckling and the roof tiles have been painted an unfortunate white), or $200K to make it into a 3/2, but when you’re done you’ll have a unique gem of a cottage on .42 acre of land.  If this seems daunting, have a look at the before-and-afters of the house just a few doors down: Phoenix on Orange Avenue. Compared to what the Spencers undertook with this house’s larger cousin, this reno is practically a weekend project.

Look up!

Look up!

Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.

Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.

Click Here for Orange Avenue listing

So, fellow house hunters, is this blog post just a summer beach read, or is there a moral? As usual, I can’t avoid a little bit of sermonizing, so here goes:  Winter Park is blessed to still have a certain inventory of historic homes.  I know I’m not alone in this: when we’ve moved in the past, we’ve avoided entire neighborhoods and even cities that weren’t developed until 1950, knowing we wouldn’t find homes that spoke to us therein.  I’ve spoken to many people in town—educated, creative, artistic citizens who volunteer and contribute to our community in invaluable ways–who agreed to relocate to Central Florida only after they learned of Winter Park’s existence.  Yes, there are those who want newer homes, and that’s fine.  But I know that there are other unabashed old house addicts who’ll chose solid oak closet doors over granite countertops any day of the week.   I hope Winter Park will always have something to offer these folks, because they, like older homes, make the city a much more interesting place to live.

For those who are really in the spirit,  check out these nifty historic listings as well:

211 Overlook Road

807 Golfview Terrace

1264 Richmond Road

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Sarah Susanka: The “Not-So-Big” Author Has Not-So-Small Ideas on Preservation

Susanka addresses the Colloquium audience

Susanka addresses the Colloquium audience

Sarah Susanka may have written the “Not So Big” series of architecture books, but she’s a woman of big, bold ideas.  On May 16, the architect and author shared her wisdom with a Winter Park audience of 250 at Casa Feliz’s 9th Annual James Gamble Rogers Colloquium on Historic Preservation.  Susanka’s nine books, which revolve around the theme of quality over quantity in home design, have sold well over a million copies.  Her ideas have the potential to change not only how we design our homes, but how we plan our cities, and even prioritize our lives.

Susanka squeezed an amazing amount of wisdom into her 90 minute lecture, but we’ve excerpted some particularly memorable gems here:

Lakeview Avenue home on Colloquium House Tour

Lakeview Avenue home on Colloquium House Tour

On Winter Park’s College Quarter and historic neighborhoods: 

“It’s the quality of the scale of each of these (houses) in relation to each other is what gives these places their charm…the older houses have a ‘come and meet me at my porch’ feeling that is largely absent in new houses today.”

On Historic Preservation:

“Preservation is about allowing your community to have a sense of history that you can feel palpably every day…We all know the cities that we love the most and it’s because of that.  And your community has that.”

On a (formerly) historic neighborhood in Illinois, and tear-downs:

“This is what happens when people don’t understand about the proportions and the character of the neighborhood being the point. What’s sad is that people moved there because they loved it.  But then they didn’t understand what it was that they were loving…the property value was very high, so every professional said to the homeowner ‘you need to build at least this much square footage…because of the land value’…What happened?  The very fabric of the community, which is why people wanted to live there, disappeared. This is my fear in communities around the country, and I know this is something that (Winter Park) is grappling with.”

On New Home Design:

“You can’t always say ‘no tear downs.’  So when there is a tear-down, (it’s important to focus on) how to make that new house fit into the neighborhood.”

“We are building our living rooms for people we’d rather not have in our houses.  We are told by all the professionals who are supposed to be guiding us that we have to have these big rooms that we really don’t use anymore.”

“A ‘Not So Big’ house is 1/3 smaller than the house you thought you needed, with the dollars reapportioned to quality over size.”

 “The core values of what people are hunting for – beauty and balance, harmony, home as sanctuary, sustainability and well-being—are totally absent in most of the new houses being built today.”

On the importance of architects:

“We are very attuned to space but we have no language for it.  So just like having a musical ear,  we can all appreciate music to one degree or another, but most of us don’t know how to write a piece of music.  Architects are like musicians of space.  We use the space to create particular qualities, and that’s what people fall in love with.  All these beautiful old bungalows were designed originally by architects…what you’re loving is actually good design.  That’s why they work and why they have worked for such a long time.”

Antonette Avenue bungalow on Colloquium House Tour

Antonette Avenue bungalow on Colloquium House Tour

On the “trap” of being taken in by a floor plan:

“A floor plan tells you zero about how a house will feel. For the feeling, you need information about the 3rd dimension, the heights of everything, and that’s where the feeling starts to come in.  No wonder people are building house after house and are frustrated.”

 “Ceiling height and the shift in ceiling height makes all the difference in the world. And I’m not talking about ‘tall, taller and tallest.’  I’m talking about a shift in articulation from 7 feet to 8 feet.”

On “too big” spaces and building to a human scale:

“The other piece of this that is so critical is that we have to build to our human scale…you can look at a photograph of a massive space and it can look pretty..but if you were trying to live in that room, you’d be in an echo chamber.”

“One of the challenges with these big houses is that we don’t have any of that feeling (of occupying the space).  We feel tiny…An 18 foot ceiling is wonderful for a state capitol but not for your family room. Because you can’t feel like you occupy that space.  You can be in awe, but do you want to be in awe in your family room?”

“People want a house that fits them more like a suit than a sack.”

On the importance of beauty in architecture:

“Beauty matters! We can build the greenest house there is, but I can tell you right now that if it’s not beautiful, it’s not sustainable, because we won’t want to look after it.  Never underestimate the value of making something beautiful.”

On Infill Design in Neighborhoods


Susanka shares her big ideas

“There are going to be situations where someone’s living in a beautiful neighborhood like Winter Park and they want double the space.  There is still a way to do it so it fits with the existing neighborhood…this is what I call being a good neighbor, where you’re recognizing what is needed to fit in.  It’s letting people know that you’re aware of the beauty of the neighborhood and you want to fit in.  It doesn’t have to look identical but the proportioning, being in scale with your neighbors, is so, so important.”

On why many planned communities fail:

“Doing it from scratch is a real challenge. It needs to have a flavor of organic growth.  That’s what makes it come alive. There are many new urban communities that do that, often by having saved particular trees or a particular anomaly in the landscape that then becomes the focal point and allows other organic idiosyncrasies to happen all around it.”

On Life:

“Life is much simpler than we think. Life is just the experience of what’s happening right now…we don’t have to argue with it, we can just be here.  And that’s where the joy is.  Ask yourself, “what inspires me?” And it doesn’t have to be something enormous—it can be gardening…and give yourself permission to do just that.  Believe it or not, that is the bridge to a sustainable future. Extraordinary things happen by paying attention to what your heart loves to do.”

You can watch Susanka’s entire Colloquium lecture by clicking here:

PLUS! Winter Park Awards First Ever Historic Preservation Awards

At the 2015 Colloquium, four property owners were honored with the city’s first annual Historic Preservation Awards.  Genean McKinnon, a member of the Winter Park Historic Preservation Board, presented awards to the following:

Excellence in Residential Renovation – The Annie B.  Johnston, 834 Antonette Avenue

Recipients:  current owners Rick and Wendy Hosto

Johnston House - before

Johnston House – before

The house was built in 1926 for Annie B. Johnston. The bungalow is a historic

Johnston House - after

Johnston House – after

resource in the College Quarter Historic District.   Over almost 80 years of occupancy, the bungalow suffered from an application of inappropriate siding and a poorly built addition.  Suzanne Fisher acquired the house in 2005. She removed the siding and improved the front porch access, restored the interior of the house   and replaced the failing add-on in keeping with the historic Craftsman architecture. The historic house was fully renovated in character and prepared for decades of enjoyment.  Ms. Fisher opened the house for the 2014 Colloquium tour which focused on restored homes.  The current owners, Rick and Wendy Hosto, recently purchased the house from Ms. Fisher.

The Coop - before

The Coop – before

Excellence in Commercial Renovation – The COOP by John Rivers, 610 Morse Boulevard

The Coop - after

The Coop – after

Brad Watson, 4Rivers Director of Real Estate & Construction, received the award on behalf of John Rivers

“It’s never too late to mend” (mural on The COOP’s patio wall) expresses the philosophy that guided the sensitive renovation of 610 West Morse Boulevard.  The building had been Mike Hage’s Market in the middle of the last century.  First renovated by John Spang for the East India Market after standing empty for a time, it would later be occupied by a series of tenants who were not always so considerate of the vernacular commercial building.  John River had the foresight to reimagine the building as the perfect place for his new southern style restaurant, The COOP.  He brought the building up to current code standards added a lively vintage inspired sign.  The COOP’s adaptive reuse and renovation preserve the building’s unpretentious character and honors Hannibal Square history.

Kummer-Kilbourne House

Kummer-Kilbourne House

Excellence in Adaptive Reuse –Kummer- Kilbourne House by Allen Keen, Keewin Properties, 121 Garfield Avenue

Parkland International Realty President Hal George, contractor, received the award on behalf of Allen Keen

In the early 1900s, Kummer Lumber was located behind the 1916 house which faces Central Park.  It served as the home of owner Gotthilf “George”  Kummer and his descendants for almost 100 years.  Kummer’s grandchildren spurned many offers to sell the only house in the upscale Park Avenue Corridor after their mother’s passing until they found a buyer they trusted in Allan Keen.  A space in a big glass box office in the suburbs isn’t for everyone.  The house and the detached garage were meticulously restored for Keewin Properties’ business offices.  The house was placed on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places in 2004 and is included in the Downtown Winter Park National Register Historic District.

John Spang & grandson

John Spang & grandson

Lifetime Achievement –In Remembrance of John Spang

Mrs. John “Cissy” Spang, owner operator of the Park Plaza Hotel, received the award given in remembrance of her husband John Spang.

A dynamic visionary and Winter Park advocate, John Spang contributed to the revitalization of downtown and Hannibal Square at a time when businesses were moving to new suburbs and shopping malls.   John Spang had a different vision.  He and his wife Cissy arrived in Winter Park in the 1970s.    Recognizing the intrinsic charm of historic but faded downtown, he opened the East India Clothing Store on Park Avenue followed by the East India Ice Cream Parlor. He acquired the former Hamilton Hotel and Grill and revitalized it as the stylish Park Plaza Hotel and Park Plaza Gardens restaurant.  When the 1920s Alabama Hotel closed, John Spang had the vision to reimagine the once grand winter escape as condominiums.  He pioneered revitalization in Hannibal Square by opening the East India Market and Coffee Emporium in the former Mike Hage’s Market building where he became a master coffee roaster before coffee shops were “cool”.  John Spang will be remembered for infusing new life into Winter Park’s historic buildings so residents and visitors can enjoy them today.

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