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 realtor.com, 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.

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Shall we have a spot of lemonade before croquet?

Yum.

Yum.

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:

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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.

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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

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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

1 Comment

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One response to “Let’s Go Historic House Hunting!

  1. Nancy Lilley

    Great idea Betsy. I have a friend looking for a small house and will pass this along to her. Can’t think of a better way to keep these precious historic homes intact than by letting the preservation community know about their availability. Hope you will continue to do this!

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