On May 10, the City of Winter Park recognized individuals and community cornerstones that have greatly contributed to the state of Historic Preservation in the city. Genean McKinnon, Winter Park Historic Preservation board member, was the master of ceremonies. Her opening remarks included a statement that reminded attendees that, “Historic homes and buildings are more than vintage architecture and building materials. They are reminders of the people who have lived and labored in them, and their contributions to the community.” Her aim, a belief strongly held by the staff and board of Casa Feliz, was to remind attendees of the human connections throughout the places and institutions discussed. Five awards were handed out during the course of the afternoon, highlighting homes, civic buildings, private clubs, and individuals.
Exceptional Individual: Frank Roark
Although last to be recognized in the ceremony, Frank Roark is first and foremost in the hearts of the Friends of Casa Feliz. He continues to put forth an invaluable amount of time and work towards preserving and maintaining Casa Feliz. Frank specializes in historic restoration and complex preservation projects. His understanding and technical ability have benefitted the community beyond the restoration of Casa Feliz. He helped orchestrate the move of the Showalter-Capen house across lake Osceola to the Albin Polasek Museum property, completed the recent renovation of the Winter Park Woman’s Club, oversaw the restoration of the Barbour Apartments, and directed the placement of the cupola at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, just to name a few.
Excellence in Residential Renovation: The Geer-Van den Berg House, 138 Detmar Drive
Former Casa Feliz board member Stacey and her husband Rob Panepinto received this award for the renovations to their residence. The home, the Geer-Van den Berg house, is considered the second oldest home in Winter Park. It was built in built in the early 1880s by Dr. Geer, one of the area’s first physicians. The site was purchased in 1876 from Wilson Phelps, and thus, the charming Victorian cottage overlooking Lake Mizell was created. Today, the house’s Victorian charm has not been lost and the house remains one of the finest examples of this style in Winter Park.
The unique historic home has undergone several additions and modifications by the Van den Berg family in the 1970s and the Capper family in the early 2000s. It was the Capper family who added the major additions now seen from Detmar Drive. In 2011 the Panepintos purchased the property and have been active in its preservation ever since. They opened up the house to the public in 2016 for the James Gamble Rogers Colloquium historic home tour.
Excellence in Residential Renovation: The Maher House, 616 Seminole Drive
Two awards for Excellence in Residential Renovation were awarded, and the second recipients were Michael and Diane Maher. The original brick home was built in 1925 on a large double lot on Seminole Drive in a Tudor Revival style that was a copy of the owner’s Michigan home. In 1980 James Gamble Rogers II constructed an additional Great Room. In order to preserve the character of the home, each subsequent addition and renovations have been made in proportion and scale to the original. During the ceremony, Ms. McKinnon relayed an anecdote in which former homeowner Fred Rogers had been spotted from the driveway and invited into the home for a tour by Ms. Maher.
Excellence in Commercial Renovation: Woman’s Club of Winter Park
The next award was granted to the Woman’s Club of Winter Park and accepted by club President, Ms. Cynthia Gerken. The club was founded in 1915 and two years later they received a land donation from Charles Hosmer Morse. In 1921 the club built a Neoclassical Revival Style building designed by L. Percival Hutton. It was the first clubhouse built by any local organization; and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Recently, the Woman’s Club refurbished interior spaces including the main meeting room, stage, office, restrooms, bride’s room, and support spaces. Frank Roark was the general contractor. The craftsmanship and care put into the renovations are the reasons this building and the organization that supports it received the award.
Excellence in Adaptive Reuse: OCPS Winter Park Ninth Grade Center
The award for Adaptive Reuse was given to Orange County Public School’s Winter Park Ninth Grade Center and accepted by Ms. Joie Cadle. Originally built as Winter Park High School’s administrative offices in 1923, the space now houses classrooms. The adjacent gymnasium was designed by Casa Feliz’s architect, James Gamble Rogers II. The Mediterranean Revival style buildings underwent restorations in 2014. This structure was chosen because the manner in which it was renovated helped to maintain the history of Huntington Avenue and the far edge of College Quarter Historic District. The decision to maintain the small decorative details and historic elements on the exterior will provide the next generations with an invaluable sense of history.