Author Archives: friendsofcasafeliz

DEAR NEXT MAYOR OF WINTER PARK:

Dear Next Mayor of Winter Park,

Let us be the first to congratulate you on your victory, even before you’ve won!  We at Preservation Winter Park and the Friends of Casa Feliz look forward to working with you on matters of import to our city.  Before you get too giddy over your hard-won $3,000 annual salary, realize that there’s hard work ahead.  As you approach your inauguration, we hope you will consider the following:

  • Your job is to manage growth, not create it. If you asked 100 residents of Winter Park what they love about their city, we doubt one would answer “its growth potential.”   This is because people are attracted to Winter Park for what it is—an oasis of calm and traditional community in the midst of an area defined by urban sprawl, traffic, and strip malls.  People move to Winter Park because they love what it is, not what they hope it will become.  The Pacific Northwest adopted this mindset decades ago, and it hasn’t hurt them one bit.goose
  • Protect Downtown Winter Park: There are certainly areas of Winter Park that could benefit from redevelopment.  But the downtown business district is not one of them. It’s our soul, and it’s our cash cow.  In other words, don’t allow anyone to kill, maim, or expose to avian flu the goose that laid the golden egg. This may seem like it goes without saying, but we know from past experience that the prospect of a big short-term gain can cause the advancement of some astoundingly bad ideas.  See: Hotels, Carlisle. See also: West Meadow, Paving.
  • Know whom you serve: Approach potential developments with the question of “Will this project improve the quality of life for our residents?” and not, “How can we make this work for the developer?”  The posture of our planning department too often seems to be to work with the developer to manipulate and bend the code so that it allows him to do what he wishes with his property.  The buck stops with you.  Consider that the developer may just be operating to maximize profit, not in the best interests of the residents you were elected to represent.extraordinary care
  • Please build with extraordinary care: Regarding growth, it will come, whether we like it or not, given the bustling economy of Central Florida. However, we are in the enviable position as a city to be very particular about how that growth and development will occur.  We have a very scarce commodity in Winter Park: developable land.  This means that we call the shots, not the developers.  It’s time Winter Park had an Architectural Review Board.  This isn’t snobbery, or a restraint of trade.  It’s just good sense.  Many of the places known for their attractiveness—Charleston, Old Town Alexandria, Coral Gables, Santa Barbara, Santa Fe—have them.   Winter Park has a terrific crop of architects that would be delighted to serve.  There should be no commercial building erected in Winter Park that isn’t extraordinary.boiled frog
  • A frog on the stovetop boils one degree at a time: Relaxing zoning for one small lot can seem like not such a big deal.  But when viewed in totality with all of the other zoning variances granted over time in a neighborhood, it can tip the scale.  What’s the harm of increasing the allowed density on a lot when it’s already R-4 directly across the street?  And then next week, we might as well rezone the lots next door, too.  A couple months later, let’s go ahead and take the block.  You get the picture—before too long, you’ve got a boiled frog.lawsuite fear
  • Good policy decisions aren’t made with the guiding principal of lawsuit avoidance. Yet if an outsider were to observe the planning and zoning process in Winter Park in recent years, he might conclude that our city motto was Parco cause procul totus sumptus (Latin for “Avoid lawsuits at all costs”) rather than “The City of Culture and Heritage.”  The city opened itself up to a lawsuit when it stayed the demolition of Casa Feliz, then a private residence—but it was the right thing to do.  The city DID get sued when it denied the final permit for the construction of the Carlisle Hotel.  Would we be better off now if we had taken the path of least resistance? It’s hard to find folks who say, “You know, this park sure would be nicer if it had a 4-story condo complex looming at the edge.”
  • Incentivize Historic Preservation: For a city with the historic assets that Winter Park has, you’d think we might have a historic preservation code that encourages rather than discourages preservation.  The existing ordinance does allow historically-designated properties to have garage apartments and some relaxation of setbacks on additions.  But this hasn’t been enough to incentivize large numbers of historic homeowners to register their properties.  There are lots of ways to sweeten the pot: how about a reduction in utility fees for registered homes? Eliminating permitting fees for remodeling projects or tree removal?  Rebates for making a historic home more energy-efficient?  Low-interest loans for commercial rehabilitations?  The Getty Foundation produced a wonderful resource on historic preservation incentives for the City of Los Angeles: http://www.preservation.lacity.org/files/GCI%20-%20Incentives%20for%20the%20Preservation%20and%20Rehabilitation%20of%20Historic%20Homes.pdf.  It’s time to adopt some of these ideas in Winter Park, and reward the folks who are working hard to preserve the architecture that benefits all of us.

Celebrated author Bill Bryson describes the wisdom of preservation thusly:central park 2

“ [Traveling] makes you realize what an immeasurably nice place much of America could be if only people possessed the same instinct for preservation as they do in Europe. You would think the millions of people who come to Williamsburg every year would say to each other, “Gosh, Bobbi, this place is beautiful. Let’s go home to Smellville and plant lots of trees and preserve all the fine old buildings.” But in fact that never occurs to them. They just go back and build more parking lots and Pizza Huts.”

In sum, may your next three years be more about planting trees and preserving fine old buildings than Pizza Huts.

Yours Truly,

Preservation Winter Park

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CANDIDATES WEIGH IN ON HISTORIC PRESERVATION

In politics, it’s rare to find a candidate who claims to be against historic preservation.  You’d get just about as far running on a platform condemning motherhood and apple pie. Similarly, it’d be pretty dumb to announce that you don’t value private property rights—unless, perhaps you were running for something in North Korea.

But what about when historic preservation appears to be in conflict with an individual’s right to dispose of his private property as he chooses?  For instance, are you still a preservationist if you think the government has no right to delay the demolition of a National Register-worthy private home? How much do you value your community’s roots if you think that historic preservation should be 100% voluntary?  It’s not unlike saying you want a balanced federal budget, but they better not touch your entitlements.  Historic preservation, like fiscal responsibility, can require difficult choices.

With these nuanced questions in mind, Preservation Winter Park set out to gauge the level of commitment that the candidates running for elected office in Winter Park have to historic preservation.  As the ultimate decision-making authority on city ordinances and contentious planning and zoning issues, our city commission wields significant power in determining whether our historic assets are valued and preserved, or are afforded no more protection than any other city real estate.

On January 14, we contacted the four candidates currently running for elected office in Winter Park–Steve Leary and Cynthia Mackinnon, candidates for Mayor; and Gary Brewer and Greg Seidel, candidates for City Commissioner.  We asked them to submit their answers to a questionnaire developed by our advocacy committee, and promised to print their responses in our blog.

Leary

Leary

Leary, the only candidate who is a sitting Commissioner, declined to answer the survey on the advice of city attorney Larry Brown.  In reference to the fact that Casa Feliz is in its 10th year of a 99-year lease with the city, Brown advised Leary thusly: “Although you may comment on these issues in your campaign as you determine appropriate, you should make your statements in forums that are not provided by entities that are parties to a long term lease with the City. This is because a third party may contend that the extent of leverage or coercive power is sufficient that you have wrongly misused your position for a private political advantage.   I don’t know if the Chamber or other non-profits that have long term leases have also proposed questions, but if they have done that, my advice is the same.”   According to the Leary Campaign Facebook page, there are “confirmed debates” at both the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the Winter Park Public Library, both entities in contracts with the City of Winter Park.

We share the responses of the other three candidates, below.

FRIENDS OF CASA FELIZ

CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

 YES/NO QUESTIONS: Please simply answer “yes” or “no” or “no opinion” to the following questions.

Do you believe that our current historic preservation ordinance adequately protects the city’s historic assets? YES or NO or NO OPINION

Mackinnon: Clearly, given recent controversies regarding some treasured historic homes, our present Ordinance is not designed to balance competing interests and provide a fair method  for safeguarding private property rights while providing an effective means for preserving community assets.

Brewer: YES

Seidel: NO

 

Currently Winter Park has the highest threshold for the formation of historic districts in Florida (2/3 of all property owners must return a ballot in favor of the district). Do you believe this threshold should be lowered to a simple majority? YES or NO or NO OPINION

Mackinnon: Ultimately, citizens must have the right to determine the level of protection appropriate to their neighborhood or district. Achieving the right balance in terms of the approval thresholds is an issue on which we should seek community consensus.

Brewer: NO

Seidel: NO OPINION (Since in some communities, there isn’t a vote required at all, I am not sure 2/3 or simple majority is necessarily the right question.)

 

Currently an application seeking to demolish a historically significant building that has not been voluntarily listed by its owner on the Winter Park Register receives no extra scrutiny than one for a nonhistoric building. Many Florida cities empower their Historic Preservation Boards to lengthen the waiting period for historically significant buildings so that an alternative to demolition might be sought.  Should Winter Park empower its HPB to delay demolitions for buildings eligible for the National Register?  YES or NO or NO OPINION

Mackinnon: My understanding is that there is a task force or work group currently working on this issue. I would like to see the results of that citizen effort and not preempt it.

Brewer: YES

Seidel: YES

SHORT ANSWER QUESTIONS (Please limit your answer to each question to no more than 175 words):

Historic Preservation is more than just saving individual buildings. It is about preserving authentic places, including entire neighborhoods and commercial districts. Many cities use historic preservation as an economic development tool – to create a unique sense of place which is marketable and can attract people to invest, live and work in a place with character and a past. If elected mayor or commissioner, how would you integrate historic preservation into your economic development strategy for the city?

Mackinnon

Mackinnon

Mackinnon: I would look at what other cities have done and apply best practices from communities around the country. There will be broader public support for historic preservation if citizens understand that historic structures and districts add value to a community. I would also engage the public and conduct educational forums on the issues. The question has been framed too narrowly at this point (as “property rights” versus “historic preservation”) to attract wide support.

Brewer:  The historic character of Winter Park is an important element of what attracts people who wish to make this community their home. I believe the City can provide incentives through ad valorem tax credits and develop design guidelines to encourage property owners to preserve important structures and neighborhoods. It has to start with clearly articulating what and why a structure or neighborhood deserves preservation.

Seidel: Historical preservation can be an effective economic development tool, if highlighted in city general promotional (and tourism) material, or via celebrations (eg historical homes days, walking tours with educational brochures, etc), signage (via public works or a CRA). The recent designation of the Maitland Art Center as the only National Historic Landmark in the metro area is likely to attract more out-of-area visitors, and collaboration with Maitland should be a priority, as the Museum is investing heavily to attract new visitors that are specifically interested in historical sites.

  

A 2001 survey identified 145 structures in Winter Park as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Since that time, 13 of these structures have been demolished by their owners.  Of the 132 remaining historic resources eligible for National Register status, only 18, or fewer than 14%, are protected from demolition by the Winter Park Register.   As mayor or commissioner, what would you do to help prevent demolition of historically and architecturally significant buildings?

Mackinnon: I would not “prevent” a private owner from demolishing a building if he/she chose to, and would rather encourage a process that is proactive rather than reactive.

Brewer:  Although I appreciate the historic nature of a structure or place and encourage its preservation, the determination to preserve a historic structure must be initiated and sustained by the property owner. I don’t believe the city, state or federal government can or should prevent demolition of any structure unless the government chooses to purchase it.

Seidel: With the caveat that I would need input from the City Attorney as to how much leeway the Mayor or Commission have, as elected officials, we have the ability to educate property owners and their neighbors about the values of historic preservation in terms of community sense of place, civic pride, and increased property values.  As well, educating the public to correct misinformation that many have with regards to restrictions on private property rights under a preservation scenario needs to accompany an effort to increase consideration of historic preservation.  City staff may have already, but if not, could determine if there are other districts that qualify; as with any action perceived to affect private property rights, it may be better to approach en masse, than as individual properties. The Visioning process currently underway by the City is likely to enlighten the Commission on how Winter Parkers feel about historic preservation.

What should the city do to incentivize owners of historic structures to list their properties on the Winter Park Register? What, if any, incentives would you push for as mayor or commissioner?

Seidel

Seidel

Mackinnon: Currently, a group is examining a wide range of possible incentives, and I will support looking around the country for best practices that have produced meaningful preservation efforts.

Brewer: I stated earlier, I would certainly consider an incentive of ad valorem tax credit while the structure is preserved.

Seidel:  With the caveat, again, that I am not expert on what may have already been investigated in this area, there are a multitude of incentives that could be considered.  A question I would have is what steps have been taken to consider any of the approaches that the Bland & Associates report identified in comparison cities.  I was particularly intrigued by the Coral Gables approach of using Transferable Development Rights (TDR) in exchange for historic preservation of rehabilitation. Imagine the tradeoffs of increasing development potential at an underutilized site like the K-mart Plaza and at the same time gaining a restored historical home.  I would need to be better educated on this topic before outlining specific incentives I could push for, but I am aware of many options. Property tax incentives,  increased utility rebates, technical and capital assistance for exterior work, improved or prioritized landscaping on city ROW adjoining historic districts,  and quasi-independent historic trusts are all options, but I am not well-versed enough in this topic to know if any of these are optimal for Winter Park.  I recognize the value of incentives in achieving City goals, and I recognize the value in preserving historical structures. 

 What are your thoughts on the increasing density of Winter Park’s historic West Side and the erosion of single-family neighborhoods there? Do you believe the City Commission and/or the P&Z board should act to curb this trend? If so, how?

Brewer

Brewer

 Mackinnon: I am firmly opposed to increasing density and further eroding the residential nature of the West Side. That neighborhood was platted in the 1880s. I recognize the West Side as historically significant and a community asset. A developer should not be permitted to buy up several single family homes, combine the lots and build a mega-structure with increased density. We do not permit that in other parts of the City. Why would we permit that on the West Side?

Brewer: I believe in an economically diverse community with a focus on neighborhoods with housing options at all income strata. In the 1980’s the CRA addressed many issues improving the quality of life and enhancing property values within the CRA. Before this time zoning in this neighborhood was nearly non-existent. The comprehensive plan and zoning will protect the residential character of this neighborhood.

SeidelI believe we need to protect the community that exists in West Winter Park.  My family personally knows West Winter Park families that are multi-generational in their Winter Park lineage, but lack the fiscal resources to compete with market forces.  I would hope their kids that are growing up with our kids have the opportunity to raise the next generation in their neighborhood if they wish. At the same time, there is a fair amount of what would be considered inferior housing there, and as the properties redevelop, investors obviously want to optimize their return.  I am confident that as a City we can identify ways to preserve this neighborhood without repelling investment.  Assistance with exterior renovations through tax credits may address one half of this equation, while more serious consideration of TDR’s may help address the investor side. Investors will develop where they perceive the maximum return is possible, and this activity can be directed toward areas where the City would like to encourage density with proper incentives.   Overall, I think the City needs a plan, if we expect the West Winter Park neighborhood to survive and thrive. 

 

 

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995 Lincoln: A Christmas Gift for Winter Park

By: Betsy Owens

I have a confession to make:  Last week I promised a blog on the expert rehabilitation of a wonderful, Spanish-style James Gamble Rogers home on Palmer Avenue.  This is a column on the expert rehabilitation of a wonderful, Spanish-style home on Palmer Avenue that is most likely not a James Gamble Rogers house.  At least Bill and Beth Neidlinger, the owners, don’t think it is.

But in my own defense, the house just feels like a Gamble Rogers house.  The way it nestles into the lot, its sense of human scale, the fact that it’s a 3,400 square foot house that reads like 2,400, the way that the house envelops you when you walk inside.

In fact, it was these hallmarks of good design that the Neidlingers were able to discern, back in early 2013, even though prior owners had made choices that masqueraded its beauty.  “Let’s just say it needed a lot of work,” said Bill.

And how.  While the original, 1949 house had been a simple ranch built of half block, red oak floors, and high-grade dimensional lumber, subsequent owners had added their own ill-conceived design touches with questionable tile, plaster, ceiling, window and fixture choices. Strange architectural features had been added, such as a half-window abutment covered by a pitched eave and a massive, 6-foot retaining wall that obscured the house from the road.  Because the house had been in foreclosure, the bank had Scotch-taped in the bottom-of-the-line Home Depot cabinets and plumbing fixtures, in order to unload it. The backyard pool had become a breeding ground for tree frogs, whose population had reached plague-proportions.  Think I’m exaggerating? See for yourself:

Window seat?

A very strage window seat & vinyl windows.

The wall

The wall

Those yellow things? Frogs.

Those yellow things? Frogs.

Someone with less vision (or, Beth would argue, more sanity) would’ve torn it down.  Not so the Neidlingers.  “We wouldn’t have considered demolition,” said Bill.  “Oh, it was too good to knock down.  The house had great bones. Plus, the historic homes, the arts and culture—this is why we moved to Winter Park.”  They chose the city over Charleston, Savannah, Sarasota, and Fairhope (AL) when they retired here from Atlanta 7 years ago.

Their first step was to hire architect Steve Feller, contractor Rich Searl, and landscape architect  Bob Heath to oversee a 10-month rehab that included every room and every corner of the yard.  “These guys understood that in rehabbing a single-floor home on a large, lovely lot, we were doing the antithesis of what everyone else is doing these days.”   Indeed, defying the trend to ‘build as large a house as you can possibly afford,’ the Neidlingers chose quality over quantity.

While they essentially stripped the house to the studs, they did nothing to change the envelope of the house, save enclosing one patio.  These photos show just how extensive the renovation was:

Yikes.

Anyone know a good electrician?

Lots of work to be done

Stripping away the not-so-great

IMG_1427

Fireplace: before

IMG_1369

IMG_1733

Pre-plaster & millwork

Starting to see progress!

Starting to see progress!

The new porte-cochere

The new porte-cochere

Authenticity and craftsmanship were the watchwords of the renovation.  The genuine barrel tile roof was applied the old-fashioned way, with mortar seeping out between the tiles.  “We stole that from Casa Feliz,” chuckles Bill.  The woodwork is magnificent in its beauty and simplicity. And who knew plaster could be this stunning? The stippled plaster walls are a work of art.  Beth repurposed what she could—removing the front wrought-iron gate, refurbishing it, and hanging it as a trellis in the back yard. “I save everything old I can save,” says Beth. “I have a hard time spending money on new anything.”

As you can see, the finished product is a dream of a house, and the perfect backdrop to their antique furniture.   And, amazingly, though the house is essentially brand new inside, it feels like you’re stepping back in time when you cross the threshold. During my visit, I didn’t spot a single big screen TV or Jacuzzi tub to remind me that I wasn’t in a home from the 1940s.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

IMG_1330

Hard to believe the entryway isn’t original.

Porte-cochere complete

Porte-cochere complete

Look closely: can you see the seeping mortar?

Refurbished lap pool

Refurbished lap pool & repurposed garden gate

Living room

Living room

Dining room

Dining room

Gorgeous plaster & millwork

Gorgeous plaster & millwork

Kitchen

Kitchen

Beth & Bill Neidlinger

Beth & Bill Neidlinger

The Neidlingers credit the team of professionals with how the house turned out, but it is their nature to deflect credit.  In truth, Feller, Searl and Heath brilliantly translated the Neidlingers’ vision.  It’s hard to imagine more genuine, humble folks.  Retired from their jobs in retail and education, they are thrilled to finally be in their new home, particularly because it boasts not one but two gorgeous guest rooms.  About the closest Bill gets to bragging is to proclaim “we are rich in relationships!”  He’s not kidding.  They’ve been in the house 9 weeks and are about to host their 8th visitors.

What’s the moral of this story?

Like the Neidlingers, homebuyers should have some imagination before deciding to raze an old ranch house, which are plentiful in Winter Park.  Environmental implications aside, chances are that whatever new house is built to replace the old one will be of lower quality, be too large for the lot, and won’t blend well with the neighborhood.  In other words, consult with a good architect before calling the demolition company.

In this season of giving, Bill and Beth Neidlinger have presented a gift to Winter Park.  If, as Thomas Jefferson said, architecture is the most public form of art, then the Neidlingers have restored a Rembrandt to the gallery of Palmer Avenue. Let’s hope others follow their example.

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Precious historic Winter Park home for $339K

1207 Kenwood

Dear Preservation Winter Park readers:

There’s a Christmas treat in store for you next week, when we’ll present the recent restoration of a James Gamble Rogers home by Winter Park couple Beth & Bill Neidlinger.

To tide you over, have a look at this listing, of a precious Winter Park bungalow, built in 1925, on the market for $339,000. It’s tiny, but lots of quality crammed into this tiny package:

http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/1207-Kenwood-Ave_Winter-Park_FL_32789_M50902-96241.

Good tidings to you–

Preservation Winter Park

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Same Old Story: Say Goodbye to Another Winter Park Favorite

1590 Glencoe Road

1590 Glencoe Road

It’s understandable that the house located at 1590 Glencoe Road has long been mistaken for a Gamble Rogers design.  The two-bedroom, 1 bath French Provincial cottage is nestled into a large corner lot, and has the detail, scale and massing of a Rogers house.  Plus, it was constructed in 1945, the heyday of Rogers’ residential work in Winter Park.   As these photos indicate, the house has charm in spades, regardless of the architect.

Back patio

Back patio

Side view

Side view

Living room: best I could do through the window.

Living room: best I could do through the window.

Farmhouse detailing

Farmhouse detailing

Wide view

Wide view

And while a number of its neighbors have fallen to the wrecking ball over the years, to be replaced with larger houses of dubious design integrity, the house has stood as a reminder of a time when people valued quality over quantity, charm over pomposity.

Apparently, that time has past in Winter Park.  On October 2, the City of Winter Park approved a demolition permit for the house.  The applicant?  Rex Tibbs Construction, who purchased the house from Dawn Hall the same week for $435,000, clearly with the intent of replacing it with a spec house.

So long, old pal.

So long, old pal.

It’s sad that this could have been prevented.  In 2010, when the Virginia Heights East historic district was formed, lawyers for Ms. Hall petitioned the city, claiming that the house’s inclusion in the district would present a financial hardship for the homeowner, limiting her ability to realize the property’s market worth. The minutes from the Historic Preservation Board meeting on January 10, 2010, state “Dawn Hall, 1590 Glencoe Road, explained that she purchased the home with the intention to tear it down.”  Indeed, if the house had been included as a contributing resource in the historic district, it would have been very difficult to obtain a demolition permit, thanks to the city’s historic preservation ordinance.Scan_Pic0001

As a result of Ms. Hall’s legal saber rattling, the Virginia Heights East district was gerrymandered to exclude her home.  To her credit, the city’s historic preservation officer, Lindsey Hayes, recommended against the drawing of this artificial boundary, but her advice was ignored by the HPB and subsequently by the City Commission.  Lesson:  if you want to get your way at Winter Park City Hall, just threaten to sue.

In the end, it’s unclear that Ms. Hall gained that much from having the house excluded from the district.  The $435,000 selling price seems high for a 1,400 square foot house, but not necessarily one in that neighborhood.  With a little creativity, there would have been ample room on the lot to add on to the house in back, without affecting the façade of the house from the street.   It’s hard to imagine that if the house had been designated historic, it would have sold for less than $350,000.

The big winners will likely be Rex Tibbs, who, if history is any indication, will construct a 3,500+ sq. ft. poured-concrete faux Colonial or Mediterranean, which will add zero to the character or uniqueness of the Virginia Heights neighborhood, and sell it for a half million profit.  They’ve also recently razed a cottage at the bottom of the hill on College Point; stay tuned for more homogeneity.   If you search Google Images for “Rex Tibbs,” here are the first two photos that pop up.

 

rextibbs1 rextibbs2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fact that the house is being razed for a spec house adds insult to injury. When a homeowner demolishes a historic home to build a new one, it looks like lack of sophistication, or at worst, selfishness. When a developer does it even before he has a buyer, it just looks like greed. Sorry.

What, if anything, can be done about this practice?  Is Winter Park helpless to slow or stop the steady march of architectural sameness?

People in Los Angeles are attacking the mansionization problem from an interesting angle.   Recently, at the citizens’ urging, the City Council passed an ordinance which will curb the supersizing of houses in 14 neighborhoods, by banning demolitions in some areas and enacting size restrictions in others. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-mansionization-demolition-20141104-story.html.  Perhaps this is something Winter Park should consider.  Note the words ‘historic preservation’ don’t appear in the story. While it’s probably too late for certain neighborhoods (the ‘tree streets’ and Vias come to mind),  there are others that still retain their residential density and leafy charm, such as Timberlane Shores or Orwin Manor, that could benefit from such an ordinance.

Gertrude Stein famously said of her hometown of Oakland, California, “There’s no there there,” meaning, of course, that there was little of interest in the burg – architecturally or culturally – to differentiate it from other American cities.

Let’s not let this apply to Winter Park.

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A Gamble Rogers House Moves…to Ocoee

 by Betsy Owens

Think you know the story of the stately James Gamble Rogers house that moved to escape the wrecking ball? Betcha don’t know this story.  Because this house move took place without fanfare, without a massive fundraising effort, without widespread media coverage.  Unlike the Capen House, or the Barbour House before it, the Lomax Gwathmey House move took place in Ocoee (you heard right—Ocoee), enabled by one man’s appreciation for architectural history, quality construction, and just wanting to do the right thing.

The story begins in 2001, when David and Michelle Leon went out for a Saturday drive, in search of a house off Ocoee-Apopka Road that they had seen advertised.   They never made it to their destination—instead, they got lost, and stumbled upon the Gwathmey House on Medicine Lake in Apopka.   Not knowing it was a Gamble Rogers home, they were attracted to the large Georgian Colonial for its traditional design and its private location.

Gwathmey House on Medicine Lake, c. 2002

Gwathmey House on Medicine Lake, c. 2002

Michelle told David, “It’s probably a dump inside.”  But they summoned the listing agent to show them the house, and were delighted to find it in pristine condition.  David recalls that they entered the house for the first time through the kitchen, and “we spent an hour in the room opening all the knotty pine cabinets and excitedly talking with the agent before we even made it to the dining room.”

It was then they learned that the house was likely a Rogers design, and that it had been altered very little in its then 63-year history.  The house had been built in 1938 for Lomax Gwathmey, an eye doctor and citrus grower.   His brother George, also a physician, lived around the cove on Medicine Lake, hence its name.  While the actual house drawings have yet to be unearthed from the Rogers archives, The Architecture of James Gamble Rogers II in Winter Park, Florida, the definitive book on Rogers’ work, lists a home built for Lomax Gwathmey in 1938 in unincorporated Orange County, and author Patrick McClane recalls seeing the plans when researching the book. After the Gwathmeys, the home had been owned by only one other family, the Coulantes, before the Leons entered the picture.

David and Michelle loved every inch of the house, which had been vacant for two years.   They were told that the homey country kitchen had been featured in a “Better Homes and Gardens” spread in the 1970s.  And while the 5 bedrooms and 4 full/2 half baths seemed large for 2 people, the couple were planning a family, and they liked the humble “farmhouse feel” of the place.  Besides, it was an amazing deal—a beautiful 1930s farmhouse in excellent shape, on 18 acres, just a 25 minute drive from David’s downtown Orlando office, for $325,000.  After touring the house the first time, David recalls “I just said, ‘where do I sign?’”

After they moved in, the young couple felt that they had landed in clover.   And while they had only been vaguely familiar with Rogers’ work and reputation at closing, over time, they became increasingly enamored with the architect’s handiwork.  David ticks off several Rogers trademarks borne by the house:  cross-trusses in the attic for extra storm protection, symmetrical door placement, highest quality construction materials, a characteristic curvature in the custom banister, and a masterful attention to detail.  Case in point: the side porch, which is open now, was initially screened.  Rogers had built in a 2” hinged lip where the screen met the floor, for easy sweeping.

The house’s light-flooded interiors boast a large traditional living room with fireplace and built-in bookcases, gorgeous original wood floors throughout, a sunny breakfast room, an oak-paneled office and airy upstairs landing, nooks and crannies galore, and original bathroom tile and tubs which traditionalists find charming—and they’re correct. It features the kind of foyer Robert Young would have come home to, with Princess, Bud and Kitten tumbling down the stairs to greet him.

Welcome in!

Welcome in!

Living Room

Living Room

Country Kitchen

Country Kitchen

Original bathroom tile

Original bathroom tile

And the Leons loved all these things—but after their first daughter was born in 2003, Michelle began to feel isolated.  As an aspiring law partner, David worked many late evenings downtown, and Michelle felt vulnerable at home with a young infant in the middle of an 18 acre spread.

Thus, it seemed written in the stars when a deal came about in 2005 that would enable them to keep the house they loved, but move closer to civilization. Envisioning – what else?—multi-family housing, a developer offered David and his neighbor a tidy sum for their combined 40 acres of Medicine Lake property, and agreed that David could keep the house if he moved it off the land.  Soon thereafter, the Leons found the house’s current lot—just over an acre on the shores of Lake Apopka, about 2 miles away as the crow flies.   The Leons began planning for the big move.

First, the family of 3 found a house in Winter Garden, to bide their time while the Gwathmey house was prepared for the move, relocated, and then outfitted with a new foundation, a process David estimated would take a few months.

Next, they hired Mike Hodge, the contractor who had provided the labor for the Casa Feliz move in 2001. They came up with what David calls the “parade route,” a 7-mile itinerary that involved the dismantling of phone and electric lines, cooperation from the City of Ocoee, Orange County Sherriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol, and special permission from the Expressway Authority to close down Route 429, the “Western Beltway,” in Apopka.  This was the most dramatic part of the August 13, 2006 move—rolling the Gwathmey House onto the expressway in the middle of the night and hauling it several hundred yards before rolling it down the exit ramp.

David recalls a couple onlookers—one young woman who jumped aboard one of the pickup trucks before being ejected, and a drunken motorist who complained to the moving crew about the disruption, but for obvious reasons had no interest in escalating his gripe to the sheriff’s deputy. “It’s interesting who you meet when you’re moving a house in the middle of the night,” he laughs.

The move received surprisingly little media coverage–perhaps because it occurred at night, or perhaps because no one was trying to raise funds for it, or perhaps because of the relatively remote location of the move. No matter—David and Michelle witnessed the whole journey, walking behind the behemoth house while pushing a stroller containing their two-year-old, who slept most of the way.  The cavalcade also included the sheriff’s deputy and Ocoee police cars, phone/cable trucks, Florida Power vehicles, the semi and two front-loaders propelling the house, and the moving crew’s pickup trucks. David describes the nighttime adventure as “surreal.” The pneumatic lifts supporting the house could raise and lower the house to keep it level with variations in the road, and to navigate over about 50 mailboxes, which otherwise would have had to be relocated.

Waiting to Cross 429

Waiting to Cross 429

 

Vehicle Makes Wide Turns

Vehicle Makes Wide Turns

We Got a Great Big Convoy

We Got a Great Big Convoy

Neighborhood Welcome

Daybreak finds a new neighbor has arrived

Final Approach to Lake Apopka

Final Approach to Lake Apopka

But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.  By the time the prep work was ready to begin at the Lake Apopka lot, a neighbor had sited his new home in an unexpected location, causing David to have to go back to the drawing board.  They brought in 100 loads of dirt to re-terrace the site, and then it took a perfectionist bricklayer he hired over a year to build a stem wall.  Then there were further complications, involving the construction of a second stem wall, and by the time all was said and done, the Leons had been out of the house for 3 years.

In the meantime, the land deal which necessitated the moving of the house to begin with “fell apart when 2008 happened,” according to David.  The Leons had spent more than $150,000 and years of their life relocating a house that didn’t need to move.

Same House, New Neighborhood

Same House, New Neighborhood

And here, dear readers, is the silver lining of the story, for one lucky buyer:  the house is now for sale. David in particular has mixed emotions about parting with the house he moved hearth and earth to save; but the family of four is now rooted in the Winter Garden community—the girls like their schools, take ballet lessons closeby, and have bonded with their neighbors.  Plus, they’ve moved on to a new project—restoring a beach house in Siesta Key, near Sarasota.

Their sacrifice will be someone else’s gain.  The bucolic lot offers a sweeping view of Lake Apopka—one of four houses on the eastern shore that have access to the lake.  There was a time when this might not have been much of a selling point.  In 1980 the state’s third largest lake was declared a Superfund cleanup site by the EPA, due to the decimation of its ecosystem caused by chemical pesticides. Fortunately, now more than 25 years into a massive reclamation effort, the lake has seen dramatic improvements in water quality.  These days, it’s not unusual to see people jet-skiing and fishing in Lake Apopka, which would have been unthinkable two decades ago.  Scientists project continued recovery, which will surely buoy land prices of lakeside property.

A good place to watch the sunset

A good place to watch the sunset

In addition to the 3,200 sq. ft. main house, there’s a huge garage, suitable for a fleet of 8 (!) vehicles or a home gym/work space, plus a separate utility shed.

Garage/workshop

Garage/workshop

You can see a marketing video of the house here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYs3xaoB7wI.

As for the Leons, a more cynical person might feel frustrated by what from the outside looks like a good deal of wheel-spinning and cash-spending.  But David is undaunted.  A glass-half-full kinda guy, he relishes his role in saving local history. “The whole experience was phenomenal,” he said.  “We saved a wonderful house, it’s on a beautiful piece of lakefront property, and will be a fantastic home for the right family. I have no regrets.”

 

The asking price for the Gwathmey House is $624,900. Contact Glenn and Donna Cox, realtors, if you’re interested in seeing the property in person: 407-694-8685; glennanddonnacox@gmail.com. 

 

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In Praise of the Humble Bungalow

BY JACK C. LANE

Winter Park is justly celebrated for its over one hundred years of eclectic architectural styles, ranging from Queen Anne to Spanish-Revival to Modern. One of the city’s most interesting and charmingly designed styles is the Bungalow, an architectural form that dominated American housing in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Thousands of bungalows, constructed mostly between 1900 and 1930, can be found throughout American cities in historic districts designated as Bungalow Villages. Although no such designation exists in Winter Park, a large collection of bungalows, built between 1920 and 1926, have been preserved in three neighborhoods southeast of city center. In this brief essay, I want to identify a select few that I consider some of the most architecturally attractive.

The convergence of three historic trends in the 1920s made the concentration of the Bungalow style in southeast Winter Park no coincidence. For several decades after 1900 American cities and towns had been expanding haphazardly from the town center, causing serious service problems for city governments. Many saw the need for a more comprehensive, orderly approach to this expansion. Responding to these national concerns, the Calvin Coolidge administration issued a Standard State Zoning and Planning publication in the early 1920s which led city and town governments to pass ordinances regulating what were now called “subdivisions.” The publication defined this new approach to land development as “the division of a parcel of land into lots for the purpose of sale.” Subdivision developers were required to apply to the city for a permit, to conform to certain regulations and to provide a name for each subdivision.

This new national land development practice coincided with the real estate boom that engulfed Florida in the period between 1920 and 1926. Although much of the boom resulted from greedy, unscrupulous speculators (creating illusionary housing developments that were nothing more than elaborate gates), many of the subdivisions were designed to meet genuine housing needs and became permanent communities within the cities and towns.  In the early 1920s, developers platted three Winter Park “subdivisions” within walking distance of city center. They named them College Quarter, Virginia Heights and Ellno Willo.

The Bungalow style arrived in the United States at the turn of the century from India via Great Britain. American architects then made alterations that included many regional variations. By the time the bungalow appeared in Winter Park, several well-defined characteristics of the America-style bungalow had been established: low sloping roofs either gabled (front or side) or hipped, often with side overhangs; exposed roof beams and rafters; exterior proportions both balanced and asymmetrical; large front porches; open, informal floor plans; prominent hearths; built-ins, and interior wood details.

The bungalows discussed in this essay are perhaps best described as “California Bungalows,” but this classification is somewhat arbitrary because identifying the various bungalow styles is a mystifying endeavor. This style originated in California (hence its designation) in the first decade of the 20th century and spread rapidly to the Midwest, particularly Chicago, and then to the South and the East. The distinguishing exterior characteristics of the California bungalow include one,one-and-one half or two stories, and a low-pitched roof with deep over-hanging eaves, supported by substantial brackets. They include dormers and a wide front porch anchored by slender or solidly placed pillars. Buyers were drawn to the California style because even the two story design had the low appearance of one story and therefore appeared to settle pleasingly into the landscape. The first floor interior of the California style differed little from the open access and convenience of other bungalow designs. Three of this design are located in the College Quarter, two in Virginia Heights and two in Ellno Willo. Although only a few were built in Winter Park, by 1920 this California design was nationally the most popular of all bungalow styles.

1565 Forest Avenue

1565 Forest Avenue

Two “classic” California styles sit side by side on Forest Ave. in the Ellno Willo subdivision. Except for the dormer roofs, the houses have been similarly designed. D.A. Algrim, who operated the Durant automobile dealership in Winter Park, built these homes in 1925, the one at 1565 for himself and the other at 1567 (pictured in heading) built for sale. All the characteristics of the classic California style are here: sloping gable roof, with a beautifully formed gable or shed dormer; wide over hanging eaves, and an open or screened large front porch, supported by four large columns.  Janice and Stuart Omans, who purchased the home at 1565 Forest in 1974, have preserved the original exterior appearance of the house.  A typical California bungalow interior arrangement, such as the Omans living room, is pictured below.  The entrance into the open living room reveals beautiful wooden floors and an artistically wood-carved banister. The Omans have removed the original dividing walls separating the living room and kitchen from the dining room, but otherwise they have made few changes in the original interior design. The preservation of these two adjacent bungalows allows us to imagine a whole village of  this style  and how it would appear.

Omans living room

Omans living room

843 Pennsylvania Avenue

843 Pennsylvania Avenue

The beautifully preserved, basic bungalow at 843 Pennsylvania is a fine example of a roof and dormer side gable, clapboard style. The open porch with its slender dual pillars was a common feature in most Florida bungalows. The well maintained house sits among a wonderful collection of electically designed bungalows on Pennsylvania.

731 French Avenue

731 French Avenue

The house at 731 French is a bungalow one-and one half story style with a low gabled dormer and lateral gabled roof. Built by D.C. Diterly in 1926, the house has two very large side columns supporting the screened porch. The wooden side exterior was the typical building material in the state, but the brick porch, common throughout the Midwest, was a rare feature of Florida bungalows.

511 Melrose

511 Melrose

The Bungalow located at 511 Melrose has clapboard siding similar to the house on Pennsylvania, and is the lone local California bungalow with a hip roof and hip dormer. The open porch, supported by five slender columns with small Greek capitals (a familiar bungalow motif) covers a symmetrical fenestration. With minimal decoration, the house is perhaps the most basic of all California designs in Winter Park.

1167 Lakeview

1167 Lakeview

The bungalow at 1167 Lakeview (1927) was the most popular early bungalow design in Florida. Its gambrel roof variation gives the bungalow its most distinctive and attractive quality. The symmetrical two-sided roof, with two slopes on each side, was popular not only for its artistic qualities but also for the additional head room it provided on the second floor.  The dormer, double the size of traditional California bungalows, gives the house its other distinctive quality. The large glassed porch, supported by four substantial rock pillars, was originally screened or open.

1035 Lakeview

1035 Lakeview

The Bungalow at 1035 Lakeview Dr. contains all the basic characteristics of a California bungalow but the builder made extensive modifications. Among other variations, the ten window dormer serves essentially full second floor, and rooms with gable roofs have been added on each side. A Winter Park dentist, John Verigan, constructed the home in 1926 and lived there until 1978.

These are just a few of the more than 30 historic bungalows that have been preserved in southeast Winter Park. They represent some our most valuable artistic architectural treasures but, as with so many of our historic houses, without protection they are always vulnerable to destruction. Many have already been demolished. An article in the July 18, 1986 edition of the Orlando Sentinel is an early indication of the uncertain future of these houses. It read in part:

“The gray [bungalow] overlooking Lake Virginia at 1055 Lakeview Drive [constructed by Ray Trovillion in 1924] was the first home built more than 60 years ago in the Virginia Heights neighborhood. The current owner has plans to do extensive work on the house. City planner Jeff Briggs says the house is historically significant and would like to see it retain its historic flavor. However, he said, because Winter Park does not have a historical preservation regulation, the city has no say about how the house is renovated.”

1055 Lakeview in 1986

1055 Lakeview in 1986

As events transpired, the bungalow was not renovated; it was demolished and then replaced by a pseudo-european style house. We lost, thereby, the oldest house in Virginia Heights and the home of one of Winter Park’s most prominent families, the Trovillions. Bungalows in the College Quarter, and along two streets in Virginia Heights, are partially protected by a historical district designation, but those in other parts of Virginia Heights and and those in Ellno Willo are not.  Thus, their future remains uncertain. I hope this brief article will help open our eyes to the significance of these and other historic bungalows and to the realization of what would be lost if we fail to preserve these artistic gems from our past.

Dr. Jack C. Lane moved to Winter Park in 1963 to join the history faculty at Rollins College.  He has authored several books, including The Florida Reader: Visions of Paradise, which he wrote with Rollins English Professor Maurice O’Sullivan. Now retired, Lane lives on Lake Virginia in Winter Park and serves on the board of the Friends of Casa Feliz.

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Golden Eggs in an Unguarded Nest: Vulnerable Downtown Winter Park

Historic preservation made the news again recently in Winter Park, when the board charged with overseeing the city’s historic architectural assets voted 5-2 to deny the Grant Chapel’s application for “Historic Resource” status.

The arguments for and against the application presented an interesting case study in historic preservation theory—what is the tipping point when a building’s character becomes so compromised that it ceases to be historic? But the discussion failed to acknowledge the bigger issue for Winter Park, which is how very vulnerable the majority of our iconic historic buildings are to demolition or architecturally ill-conceived alterations.

Heaven on Wheels:

Grant Chapel was built on Winter Park’s West Side in 1935, and served as a house of worship for the predominantly African American population there for almost 70 years.  When the congregation outgrew its location, it was purchased by developer Dan Bellows, who saw the development potential of its prime Hannibal Square location.  For the past few years, Bellows has rented the property to Suzanne and Steve Graffham, who operate it as the “Winter Park Wedding Chapel,” primarily for destination weddings.

In October of last year, Bellows struck a deal with the City of Winter Park, and made plans to move the chapel to its current location, at the Corner of Lyman and New England, across from the Winter Park Farmer’s Market.  Many citizens expressed gratitude that Bellows was moving the chapel rather than demolishing it, although traditionalists complained that yet another of Winter Park’s historic structures was having to move to escape the wrecking ball. The City’s preservation strategy sometimes appears to be ‘Move it or lose it.’

The deal specified that the new location for the Chapel would be re-zoned commercial if Bellows agreed to list the Chapel on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places, ostensibly protecting the structure from future hi-jinx.

After its December move (eclipsed somewhat by the dramatic maritime Capen House move), the chapel was remodeled to include the addition of a basement, with two staircases descending from the front façade.  The new location features fairly elaborate hardscaping, in contrast to the humble, leafy lot where the chapel once resided.  Here are the before-and-afters:

Before the move, New England Avenue

Before the move, New England Avenue

 

After the move, Lyman and New York

After the move, Lyman and New York

At the August meeting, it was apparent that these changes did not sit well with the HPB. The members who voted against designating the chapel as an historic resource argued that the front façade had been too dramatically altered with the addition of the basement, and that the building’s repositioning as a ‘faux gateway’ to the West Side took it out of its historical neighborhood context.

The staff report (see pgs. 6 and following of : http://cityofwinterpark.org/docs/government/boards/agendas/HPB_agd_2014-08-13.pdf) acknowledged these changes, but recommended that the chapel be designated nonetheless, given that its significance primarily derives from the building’s historic use and not its architectural integrity.  Several HPB members also expressed annoyance that the board had not been consulted before the structural changes were approved by city planning, and that it was a foregone conclusion that the building would be designated despite such extensive alterations.

“I was shocked to see all the changes,” remarked board chairman Randall Glidden, who voted against designation.

“I resent being put between a rock and a hard place,” complained board member Candace Chemtob, who also voted to deny historic status. “I’m kind of shocked this is coming to us after such huge alternations have been made.”

Board member Genean McKinnon expressed dismay that the planning department was aware of the changes that were being made, but didn’t inform the HPB until they were faits accompli, although she ultimately voted in favor of the designation. McKinnon agreed with staff that the building, even in its altered state, is better off protected than not.

Board members are justified in their frustration with the dramatic changes made to a historic structure, and that there were loopholes in the agreement Bellows struck with the city wide enough to drive a bulldozer through.  The agreement stated:

The owner agrees that on completion of the move, the Property and Grant Chapel Church Building shall be listed as a historic landmark property, and governed by Chapter 58, Land Development Code and the Winter Park Historic Preservation Commission. As such, the owner will not demolish or alter the Grant Chapel Church building structure in architectural style or integrity without the consent of the City.

But here are the ambiguities: should the City have had the right to put the kibosh on the basement addition, or was it OK for Bellows to add it since the chapel wasn’t yet officially on the Register? And does “consent of the City” mean the HPB or just the city planning department?  Because we all know that in Winter Park, until a structure has been voluntarily listed by its owner on the historic register (and apparently, the ink is dry), the HPB and city are legally powerless to protect a historic building from incompatible remodeling or demolition.

The Bigger Picture:

The Grant Chapel case shines a bright light on other historic treasures in Winter Park, indeed buildings on which the city’s reputation as “charming, historic Winter Park” rests, that are completely vulnerable to the whim of the property owner.

Did you know that while downtown Winter Park is a National Register Historic District, there are zero—count ‘em, ZERO—buildings in the ‘shopping district’ of Park Avenue that are on the Local Winter Park Register?   And though it seems counterintuitive, it’s the LOCAL register, not the National, that provides a building protection from alteration or demolition.

Greeneda Court

Greeneda Court

Consider Gamble Rogers’ celebrated Greeneda Court.  It’s not unfathomable that a developer might one day conclude that an open courtyard on Park Avenue doesn’t generate any cash flow and fill it in.  The 1882 Ergood Building (now Penzey’s), the Union State Bank Building (now Peterbrooke), the Pioneer Store (now Be on Park) and the Hamilton Hotel (now the Park Plaza) are protected from ruin only by the goodwill of their owners.  Which is to say, they’re one bad sale away from serious peril.

There’s not a single structure on the Rollins campus on the Winter Park Register. Are the Knowles Chapel and Annie Russell Theater on the Rollins campus safe?  One would think so.  Yet the college’s decision to raze gracious Strong Hall, designed by the celebrated architectural firm of Kiehnel and Elliott in 1939, to build a new, larger dormitory in 2013 does not bespeak a sensitivity to history, even though the Rollins website claims that the replacement dorm “has been designed in the Edison (sic) Misener (sic) tradition.”  See this interesting report of the original building’s dedication in 1939 by then-President Hamilton Holt: http://archives.rollins.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/archland/id/643/rec/9.

Strong Hall how it was

Strong Hall how it was

Strong Hall today

Strong Hall today

The equally beautiful Corrin Hall suffered a similar fate.  So, while buildings like the Knowles and the Annie might be considered sacrosanct, if I were Mills Memorial Library or the College Arms, I’d make sure my affairs were in order.

Not to spread hysteria, but Central Park is equally unprotected.  Is it ludicrous that the City would allow something to threaten what is by any objective measure, the most valuable historic resource in the city?  Any skeptics should see:  Hotels, Carlisle.

Yet any of these eventualities could be avoided if the City had the foresight to do what scores of other cities in Florida have done: to designate the contributing structures in the downtown central business district, and even on the Rollins campus, as historic on the local register, with or without the permission of the property owner.  Is this heresy?  A violation of our inalienable freedoms?  If so, then Palm Beach, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Tampa, and Coral Gables, just to name a few, are under the rule of totalitarian regimes.

Winter Park – both the politicians and property owners—may not have the stomach for designating an historic commercial district if the property owners don’t desire it. But if this is the case, we can’t be ‘shocked’ when a property owner compromises a treasured building’s historic design to increase profitability.  What’s more, we better have the stomach to tell our grandchildren that downtown Winter Park used to be a place with a lot of historic charm.

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Finding the “Real” in Winter Park Real Estate

One of my favorite features in the magazine “The Week” is a roundup of what houses are selling for around the country.  It’s amazing what $400,000 will buy in Knoxville, Tennessee—and what it won’t buy in San Francisco.

For this summer installment of our blog, we present our own real estate roundup,  Preservation Winter Park-style.   Even in 32789, one of Central Florida’s most expensive zip codes, there’s something for just about every price range in the historic home market.  Here’s what we found when looking for historic authenticity and quality in our fair city:

Price Range: <$200K

park aire front

Did you know you could afford a Park Avenue condo for under $200K?  Not only that, but one in a totally hip Art Moderne building that will make you want to mix up a Manhattan and put Dean Martin on the Hi-Fi.  The Park Aire, the nifty pink building next door to Casa Feliz, was built in 1956 as Winter Park’s first co-op.  “Completely air conditioned!” crowed the ad in the Winter Park Herald. Flash forward to 2014, this $188,500 condo is perfect for the empty nester who wants to downsize and simplify, or the snowbird looking for a stylish pied-a-terre.   Yeah, at only 539 sq. feet, it’s tiny, but the time you’ll save cleaning house you can spend shopping or dining on Park Avenue, or playing golf on the Winter Park municipal course, right outside your doorstep.

park aire living

http://www.century21.com/property/640-n-park-ave-29-winter-park-fl-32789-C2121979902

Price Range: <$500K

holtfront

You’ve probably driven past this cute bungalow on Holt Avenue in the College Quarter, and not paid that much attention.  I almost didn’t include it here because I think the price is high ($469,000) for a small house on a busy street.  And although the real estate listing says the house is 1,600 sq. ft., it seems smaller in person.  All that said, though, this house exudes historic charm from every pore, and it’s right smack dab in the middle of the action in downtown Winter Park.   Yes, it’s been updated, but impeccably, and very much in keeping with the era of the house;  the kitchen is gorgeous, and the master bath put my charm-meter on the fritz. The wood floors and plaster walls are original and pristine.  After all, with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and real estate’s 3 Ls in spades, how much more could you want for under $500K?

holtkitchen holtlivingroomholtbath

http://search.fanniehillman.com/index.cfm?action=listing_detail&property_id=O5181147&searchkey=83467c35-e3b2-9e4c-0754-45fc838d7da1

Price Range: <$700K

 

DSC_0325

A few years back, our Colloquium featured the design/build team of Sorenson & Fletcher, who provided high-quality, affordable housing for Winter Park’s expanding baby boomer population.  And while this $629,000 S & F house in Winter Park’s “tree streets” isn’t cheap, it’s in one of 32789’s top school districts and you can bike to Park Avenue.  What’s more, the house has been tastefully updated through the years to meet today’s lifestyle needs while retaining its Bauhaus flavor.  Too many of these gems have been bulldozed to make way for McMansions with zero design integrity.  If you think midcentury architecture should look like it was built in the 60s, with its original Terrazzo kitchen floors and mosaic tile fireplace, this house is the real McCoy.  Come look inside—

DSC_0229DSC_0093

chestnut pool

http://www.mlsfinder.com/fl_mfrmls/kw_294/index.cfm?action=listing_detail&property_id=O5306717&searchkey=bb99c643-98d8-4e16-a768-420de5ac2e53

Are you drooling?  Me too! Meetcha down at the Beef & Bottle for some Chateaubriand!

Price Range:  Cha-ching

osceola frontBut wait—historic home lovers, you have not yet begun to salivate.  Come with me a few decades further back, to 1930, when this house was built for the Sinclair Oil Family.  It then passed to the Showalter family in the mid 50s.  Additions have been made  through the years (including, Bob Showalter remembers, a bomb shelter his dad built after the Cuban Missile Crisis), but the new blends effortlessly with the old.  Indeed, from its Mexican tile floors to its pecky cypress ceilings, everything about this 5 bedroom, 3.5 bath Spanish style house screams “¡Autenticidad!”   (Okay, smart aleck, except for the ginormous master bath with a sinkhole-size soaking tub, but we’ll overlook that concession to modernity).  Seriously, you couldn’t build a house with this quality design and craftsmanship, on Lake Osceola no less, for $2.9 million.  By that standard, this house is a steal.osceola door

osceola living osceola family osceola entry

http://www.berkshirehathawayhs.com/Florida-Realty-FL301/homes-for-sale/FL/Winter-Park/32789/699-Osceola-Avenue-127859122

We  hope you enjoyed our midsummer dream house-hunting.  And remember, next time you’re really in the market for a house, type in “1965” in the “Built Before” search box.  That’s where you’ll find the good stuff.

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No Lie: Hinge Vintage Hardware is Unbelievable

by Betsy Owens

Do you remember the 1970s TV game show called “The Liars’ Club”? The show, hosted by Allen Ludden, involved a panel of celebrity judges examining unusual-looking objects and offering humorous theories on their possible usage.

Unfortunately for the game show producers, Hinge, the Orlando vintage hardware store that opened last month, didn’t exist back then.  Because, in addition to stocking the most comprehensive supply of antique door hardware, bath fixtures, lighting and vintage accents of possibly any other retail store in the history of the universe, Hinge also stocks fanciful items like this:

1510485_1512241068999343_7152052803278591804_n

And this:

10432486_1513338798889570_5836486018235021127_n

What are those, you ask?  Why, an antique curling iron and a pastry monogram imprint, of course!

If, somehow, you can find a more exhaustive collection of antique fixtures and furnishings somewhere, I will guarantee you that the merchandise isn’t as artfully displayed. If the Disney Imagineers were to design a vintage hardware store, they couldn’t do better than Hinge.

During my visit, I was led on a tour of the showrooms and stockroom by owners Rick and Nancy Bosserman.  For this historic preservationist, it was like a trip to the candy store.  Literally, in fact, since interspersed between the gorgeous vignettes of antique furnishings and fixtures, are tubs containing old-fashioned candy and boxes of Cracker Jack, in case you get peckish.  And you probably will.  I defy you to get in and out of Hinge in less than an hour.  I could easily lose myself for days in the stockroom alone.

If some of the merchandise looks familiar, you may remember George Baker, aka The Hardware Man, who operated a store at Renniger’s Antique Mall in Mount Dora.  When the Bossermans, who visited the store often to find hardware for their 1941 James Gamble Rogers-designed home in Orlando, learned that the Hardware Man was closing his doors, they bought him out, antique padlock, stockroom, and vintage barrel.

For Rick, a man of faith who worked in his family’s real estate brokerage firm, First Realty Advisors, for 40 years, this segue into the hardware business was a calling.  “It was obvious to me that the store needed to be purchased, and this great collection needed to remain intact.”  So, he’s passed the real estate business to the next generation of Bossermans, while he and Nancy devote themselves full-time to getting Hinge up and running.

HEAD HINGENEERS: RICK AND NANCY BOSSERMAN

HEAD HINGENEERS: RICK AND NANCY BOSSERMAN

The purchase of the business was a leap of faith in more ways than one.  Rick had no experience in retail sales, but set about converting an 8,700 square foot building located at 1506 N. Orange Blossom Trail, to a showroom and warehouse.

Then, they had to tackle the inventory. Most of the hardware was housed in a showroom, 5 large storage sheds and 2 45-ft. semi trailers in Mount Dora.  “The areas were so crammed full, there was no way to really tell what we were purchasing until we got it to Orlando and started going through the items piece by piece,” said Rick. Rick assembled a team of “Hingeneers,” including the Hardware Man’s daughter Kathy, to pack, move, unpack, clean, sort, and stock more than 3 million pieces of inventory, a process that took about 3 months, and 6 more months to create the showroom.  When they opened their doors to the public, they took a conscious break from the unpacking. In fact, when I visited their stocked-to-the gills warehouse and display rooms, I noticed the two semi trailers on the lot out back.  “What’s in those?” I asked Rick.  “I have no idea,” he laughed.  “We have to sell some of our existing inventory before we even open them.”

So, what will you find at Hinge?  Come, take a look inside:

HINGE IS ONE PART RETAIL STORE, ONE PART MUSUEM

HINGE IS ONE PART RETAIL STORE, ONE PART MUSEUM

VINTAGE LIGHTING: CUSTOMERS CAN MIX AND MATCH GLOBES, BOWLS, CHAINS AND BASES.

VINTAGE LIGHTING: CUSTOMERS CAN MIX AND MATCH GLOBES, BOWLS, CHAINS AND BASES.

GET A HANDLE ON THE SELECTION!

GET A HANDLE ON THE SELECTION!

 

THE ARTFUL DISPLAYS ARE A JOY TO BEHOLD

THE ARTFUL DISPLAYS ARE A JOY TO BEHOLD

 

LOSE THE KEY TO YOUR ANTIQUE HUTCH? YOU’RE IN LUCK.

LOSE THE KEY TO YOUR ANTIQUE HUTCH? YOU’RE IN LUCK.

They say it’s easy to sell a product you believe in.  If this is the case, Hinge will be wildly successful.  The Bossermans and their team love vintage hardware.

“They truly don’t make ‘em like they used to,” says Nancy, who has a doctorate in home economics and formerly wrote textbooks.  “These products have endured for generations, and most are no longer being made today.”

Rick adds, “our hardware comes from a time when if something was broken, you repaired it, you didn’t throw it away.”  He shows me a carpet binder from 1902 that still cranks perfectly. “Runs like a charm,” he smiles.

“Plus,” says Nancy, “not only is this hardware functional, it’s beautiful.”

Indeed, try finding door hardware this beautiful at Home Depot:

door hardware

Or a bread server with this kind of patina at Williams-Sonoma:

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Next up, Rick is working on the company website, www.hingevintagehardware.com, to broaden Hinge’s market to cyberspace.

Lucky for us, we Central Floridians can visit Hinge in person.

Hinge is located at 1506 North Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando.  Store hours are Monday through Friday, 10 to 6, and Saturday from 10 to 4.  

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