Tuesday, July 8, 2008

UPDATE on the Secret Garden Mansion


I have done some research and have found out some history about the mansion I fell in love with. The information is below. Howey in the Hills (Our Town) was named after William John Howey, which WAS his home I found hidden in the orange groves. VERY INTERESTING, information is below, I will highlight the parts about the house.

William John Howey was born on January 19, 1876 in Odin, Illinois. At age 16, "Bill" Howey began selling insurance and by 1900 began developing land and towns for the railroad in Oklahoma (My HOME STATE). he opened the Howey Automobile Company in Kansas City in 1903 at age 27, and after making seven Howey Cars, closed his business and went to Perez, Mexico where he bought a large tract of land, hoping to develop pineapple plantations with help from American capitalists, but the Mexican revolution forced him back to the USA.

Howey perfected his citrus farming and sales program techniques in the Winter Haven, Florida. area. In 1914, Howey began buying land in Lake County (OUR COUNTY) for $8 to $10 per acre and sold it for $800 to $ 2,000 per acre after it was cleared and planted with 48 citrus trees per acre. He married Mary Grace Hastings from Harrisburg, Pa on April 13, 1915, his second wife, and they adopted two daughters, Mary and Lois Valerie.
The Florida Land Boom tripled Howey's enterprises and the Town named after him was incorporated on May 8, 1925. To celebrate the completion of his 20-room, 7,200 square foot Howey Mansion in 1927, he hosted the entire New York Civic Opera Company of 100 artists, drawing a crowd of 15,000 arriving in 4,000 automobiles to the free outdoor performance. The Mansion was built in Mediterranean Revival style at a cost of $250,000 (in 1926 non-inflated dollars), is presently in private ownership, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The collapse of the Florida Land Boom in 1926, the Stock Market Crash in 1929, and the Great Depression of the 1930s contributed to a decline in land sales. Howey ran unsuccessfully as a Republican Candidate for Governor in 1928 and 1932 and though his dreams were never fully realized, he was known as Florida's greatest citrus developer when he died of a heart attack in Umatilla, Florida on June 7, 1938 at the age of 62. After an untimely death at age 16, Lois Valerie was laid to rest with William on August 13, 1941. Surviving daughter, Mary married George E. Smith Jr., residing in Eustis, Florida. Grace died at age 92 on December 18, 1981 and was placed in the third of six vaults in the family mausoleum, a small Georgian marble structure replete with filigree glass doors, and a stained glass window to diffuse the rays of the setting sun, located on the Mansion property.

(So he is buried behind the house in a vault…its privately owned and I’m not sure if anyone lives in it, I would love to go in and take pictures but I’m thinking that isn’t going to happen soon. If by some how I can get in I will update you on it)

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

The mansion is owned by a cousin of my grandmother named Marvel.

Ryan Kay said...

Is Marvel related to Howey? Have you ever been inside the mansion? Email me if you can. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Not related to the the original family although her family did make their fortune in the automobile business in Michigan so there may be a connection. I have been to the house once as a teenager, it really is interesting (ball room with carved H beams, marble entry, and hidden door) but is not in a great condition. UCF has been trying to get Marvel to donate the house and land to them.

Anonymous said...

A local group of ladies is working on a third edition of the Howey Cook Book which will include the history of Marvel Rasmussen Zona. Historyof the Mansion is fantastic as well as is the architecture of the home. It would be wonderful if Ms Zona could obtain grants to keep the Mansion in a preserved state. Please email me at CarolHart@conmcast.net if you have any info on Marvel.

Opel said...

Hello. My name is Christina, and I am mother to three direct descendants of the Howey family. The father of my children is Mr. Keyth Bryant, son of Westa Lee Smith Bryant, daughter of Mary Grace Howey Smith. Keyth (and his three siblings) all have fond memories of spending time in the mansion. He also remembers learning to ride his bicycle on the driveway at the property. :)

Mrs. Westa Bryant has lived in Tallahassee for several years now, and at her home she still has many pieces of the original furnishings from the mansion. Many of them are in need of refurbishing. There is also an oil painting of the mansion on display in her home. Mrs. Bryant has two sisters and they spent many years living in the mansion. Of course she and her sisters also hold their own personal memories of growing up in the home; B&W photographs of most things Howey related; documents related to the sale of orange grove acreage, etc.

We are extremely interested in contacting Ms. Zona, if possible (as we expect she must be elderly or perhaps deceased by now), or relatives of hers regarding the Howey house. According to everything we can find about the house; and every time we drive there to visit (and remember) it looks abandoned, which we can all agree is a shame.

I personally have never been inside the mansion but have been all around the exterior of it and have been to the mausoleum, which Mrs. Bryant intends to be her final resting place as well.

Ryan Kay said...

Opal, please contact me at rmendell7244@aol.com, I have learned so much more and know Ms. Zona personally, she still lives there. I would love to chat :)

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Anonymous said...

I have been inside the mansion recently and it is in bad shape. I know someione is interested in restoring the home as orgianl as possiable and opeining it to the public as an event venue. (weddings and such). A plan is in the works and should I should know something soon if it will really happen. It sure would be great if it was repaired and used.

Tammy said...

Went by the mansion this past weekend and it looked as if there was some activity going on (cleaning out, throwing away beds) Does anyone know what's going on? Also, is Mrs. Mary Smith still alive? How about Mr. Zona? Whom did she purchase the mansion from?

Anonymous said...

The Howey Mansion is currently for sale!!! I hear there is to be an open house for the public as early as this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Mary Smith is deceased. Ms. Zona is still alive but do to poor health, she is unable to reside in the home. The manson is in foreclosure. Unfortunately, all offers for purchase of the property had been refused by Ms. Zona, which is a shame.
There was an Estate Sale held last weekend and another one will be held April 30 and May 1. There is still numerous pieces of furniture for sale as well as miscellaneous items.
We are all hoping that someone buys the property and restores the manson to it's original beauty but at this time, its fate is unknown.
I purchased a few items from the Estate Sale and a relative of mine purchased a a beautiful dresser.
There are numerous pictures of the Howey manson and Howey family as well as pictures of Howey history on the walls of Howey Town Hall.

Anonymous said...

Any idea who is hosting the auction and what time?

Anonymous said...

I was at the Howey Mansion yesterday, I know Westa Smith Bryant who is the grand daughter
of Mr and Mrs Howey...a best friend, sad to see the condition of the house ...

PJB567 said...

Hello, I was devastated I missed this estate sale! I don't know why they did not have it on Sunday rather than Friday as most are working on Friday. I saw a clip on the 11pm news and drove out from Mount Dora on Sunday just in case they had it open, sadly it was not and others were showing up as well.

Living in Mt. Dora I don't drive over that way much so if any of you that know about the property or drive by it daily could you please let me know if there are any more future sales, I am sure there are things left that could still be sold, also would like to know if they have an open house to view the property as well sometime. Any updates would be appreciated, my email is Barthel567@aol.com Thanks!

PJB567 said...

I agree sad to see the condition of the property, even not seeing the inside which I am sure it damaged due to neglect, the exterior and grounds are so tired and just a mess.

I love historic places and am happy that the mansion is on the Historic Register this will save it from demolition and the buyer will have to follow guidelines, lets hope someone buys and saves this goregous place and restores its luster. I wish someone would post more photos of it when the Howey's lived there.

Anonymous said...

I am the brother of the late Jack Zona, husband of Marvel Zona. Jack was Marvel's second husband. Marvel has two children (Ritter). Marvel and Jack met in Grand Rapids, Mich. where Marvel was born and raised and Jack had a sculptor studio and store. Jack divorced his wife and he and Marvel married and moved to Florida. They lived in Winterpark in a very large home on the lake front. Marvel bought properties, renovated and made improvements and resold them. Marvel has no relationship to the Howey family. Her father made his fortune in lumber, cars and appliances. Jack continued his art and did not work. The mansion was bought when Marvel overheard the broker talking about it to his salesmen at a lunch. She immediately contacted the listing broker and offered the asking price of $400,000. The mansion has a secret door under the stairs in the foyer which leads to a basement room with a bank vault. The Howey's would store their silver and paintings when they went north for the summer. The mansion was on the National Registry and all repairs had to be authentic to the original specs. My wife, children and I have been in the mansion many times - for holidays, birthdays, and weekend visits. At one time a movie was filmed using the exterior and grounds as a backdrop. Jack had a studio on the 2nd floor that had been a ballroom. It is a unique and grand structure and should be a museum and/or art gallery.

Roger Zona
Boynton Beach, FL

Lani said...

I have been a friend of Marvel's for many years and am so sad that her life has come to this. I have purchased many of Jack's sculptures from Marvel and have been to her Florida and N.C homes many times.Both residences ended up in foreclosure which is such a shame. If anyone has contact with Marvel please tell her to call Lani as I am so concerned about her.

FLAuthor said...

BAck in the early 1980's, a maintenance man who worked for Mrs. Smith related a story that she told him. I checked the Leesburg Commercial but found nothing. It might be Mr. Howey was a VIP and the accident wasn't anybody's business except Mr. Howey.
When the Mansion was being built, Howey ordered the marble work for the home. It came on the railroad in Yalaha as the tracks weren't completed to H in the Hills till 1928. Sugar sand roads were impassable. They off loaded the marble onto a barge and set off for the Mansion Lakefront. Somewhere between Yalaha and the Mansion, the weight of the marble was to great for the barge and the whole thing sand perhaps dragging the steam tow boat down with it.
Today my team and I just finished scanning the Kaolin Mine trench from Yalaha to Drakes Point. The water column there is deep about 28 to 30 feet depth which would have made recovery impossible in 1925. The marble was imported Italian marble and certain grades are considered extinct.
Using advanced Sidescan sonar, we found nothing of the barge or steam launch. Possibilty that we missed it because we are looking for a needle in a haystack. Perhaps you have resources that could provide additional facts. It seemed too detailed to have been made up.

Harry Rainey Jr.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

hi, my name is corey. I am currently in college to start a carrer in architecture. I have been liveing in howey in the hills for almost 10 years driving past this wonderful home daily. i would really like if i could see the inside of the mansion some time. when they had the open house, i was young and could not attend. if anoyone could maybe send me some more information of how i could make this dream of mine possible. i would very much appreciate it. email me @ allygurlfl92@yahoo.com thanks.

meredithward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
meredithward said...

I'm sure you've all seen it by now...but if you look on youtube there are people who have taken video inside the house. Just something to hold you over until you can see it for yourself

Louis Jagny said...

Hello All,
I am a photographer and I would love to take photos outside the house and if at all possible inside the house. Does anyone know who I would have to ask to get permission?
Moreover, what happened to the unsold items from the estate sale?
Please e-mail me with any info, it will be much appreciated.
mill15716athollow@comcast.net

Concerned Lake County Citizen said...

I have created a blog "savehoweymansionblog@gmail.com" my wife spent a great deal of time in the house with the Howey family. We both feel this jewel deserves to be enjoyed by everyone. It is a Florida gem that is melting away. We are starting a grass roots effort to restore this jewel. If you have interest your help and comments are welcome! rclementsconsulting@gmail.com

Ed Melloy said...

I live in The Villages and my wife and I stumbled onto this mansion back in 2011.
We stopped by yesterday Nov 4, 2012 and noticed a broken window in the upper front of the house. How sad...

We would also love to get a peek inside. We also visited the tomb in the back of the property.

Charles Rinehart said...

I visited the mansion today. What an incredible house even in the current condition. Such personality. Took lots of photos. I hope to be back soon. Excellent info here.

Some Dreaming Girl said...

I can answer questions you may have regarding the Howey mansion. I am a part of the family descendant from William Howey.

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Autumn Jacunski said...

I am trying to find the person that took these pictures. I am making a huge commitment, more than I may be able to handle, but I am going to attempt to put a page together on Facebook with pictures and a history to try to save this house from complete ruin. I know it is going to be a huge task but as a teacher I am out of work for the summer and I want to get a substantial amount done while I am out. I would even like to eventually get media involvement to bring awareness to the house and history behind it. Anyone that would like to get involved even if it is just to offer pictures or a personal story please contact me at https://www.facebook.com/autumn.jacunski?ref=tn_tnmn which is my home Facebook page. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I recently went into the Howey Mansion this past Saturday... it is in forclosure now and there are a few people interested, but it is not in good shape... Dont get me wrong the house is beautiful and I love everything about it.. From what I have been told Mr. Howey and CV Griffin worked together and Mr. Griffin is my Great Grandfather. I am recently looking into anything about this place and about my history. I can offer these recent photos if anyone is interested!

Thanks!
Alicia

Anonymous said...

Alicia (great grand daughter of Mr. Griffin) and Christina Bryant,
please contact us via the Facebook: William J. Howey Mansion Community Project.
We are interested in meeting you in regard of the History of Mr. Howey and Mr. Griffin and the Mansion!

Anonymous said...

Please join us on FACEBOOK for the Howey Mansion:
William J. Howey Mansion Community Restoration project!

See you soon!

Barb Wintermeyer said...

My husband's aunt (Betty Weaver) grew up in Howey and knew the Howey family and their home. Betty's mother Pearla Weaver was assistant post master in Howey, and her daughter Georgia was my husband's mother. In addition to Betty and Georgia, there were five Weaver brothers. I know my husband would love to hear from anyone who knew the Weaver family. His name is Bob Wintermeyer, and we live in Tavares.