Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An Awesome Abandoned Estate Property Discovery

 A Historic Piece of History

Once Upon a Time...
Now The House With A Broken Heart
Have you ever been driving
down the road somewhere
and all of a sudden you pass
by something that catches your
eye and your brain screams...
Holy Cow Wow!!!?
and as you are passing by
your brain screams.....
back this dang car up!
And of course I did!
The wrought iron gate, the stoned columns,
and the stone wall caught my eye first....

Look at that archway with the wrought iron!
This I thought looked so awesome! I loved this pot,
and the look of it, the lantern at the top, and the wall
was so cool looking....it looks as if it is a stone and
brick wall.  Lots of mold, but I thought it gave it so
much aged character.
Loved the arched opening with the wrought iron,
and the bare vines up against the brick was
picturesque....even the mold and moss looked
awsome! Everything was so overgrown and I
thought WHY!!!? This is so beautiful!
What was the story here! I could just feel
there had to be one!  AND......
Wait till you see what is hidden behind this wall!!
It is breathless!
There is another entrance to the right of this main
entrance. Couldn't figure out why there would to be
two entrances here as there is another I guess out
entrance way at the other end of the property down
the road a bit because, it has a huge half moon shaped
paved driveway you could see through both gates.

I could see something like a face in the
lantern, so I tried getting as close as I
could, phone camera's are not good to
be able to zoom in.....
but when I downloaded the photo's,
they were so huge I was able to crop
it down, and sure enough, it was cherubs
I saw there....with all the moldy moss
growing it was hard to see, but they
were definitely there!

In the background, you can see another column
with another cherub lantern on the other side
of the main entrance hidden in the oak branches.
You can just barely see my car parked on the
other side of this wall. I'm standing in the second
entrance right next to the main entrance.

The end of the wall to the right
of the two main entrances.

And look what was behind this wall!!! My heart was pounding!!!

Looking at the right side of the mansion as you are entering
up the circular driveway to the front of the house.

I was wondering....was this an old place, or a newer place
that someone had lost to the bank when real estate collapsed.
But something inside me was saying...."this is old old!"
I was definitely going to go home and try to research this!
To the left of those gorgeous windows there in front is a
round tower section. It's like a Mediterranean or Italian
style home with a tiled roof....kind of erie a bit too!
Look at the fabulous decorative trim around those windows!!
The windows above to the left and right of the three center
windows have wrought iron in front of them...no balconies
though. I was amazed at how many windows there where
in this house!!!
I bet it was beautiful inside on a sunny day in all it's
natural light! I would hate to clean all those, but I
love tons of windows!
I wanted so badly to go through that gated entrance
to get closer and even go inside....(the front door to the
left of this photo was cracked open a few inches)....but
it was posted no tresspassing, and keep out. I think if
it hadn't been that I had the grandbabes with me, I
would had tried to sneek in anyway...I wanted to see
this in the worst way you could imagine! Even the
kids wanted to go see....they were as intrigued as me!
This place was AMAZING!!! But..... such a mess...
a few broken windows, very overgrown and let go,
and I could tell no one was or could possibly be living
there or had in a very long time. Why or who would
let this amazing place get in such sad condition!? As I
sat and looked at it, in my mind I was seeing it as back
in the 20's for some reason....a beautifully manicured
lawn, with old cars from that time sitting in front. I was
imagining holiday parties with lots of friends and family
all gathering and lots of laughter. I wondered what the
back was like.....and then I envision a beautiful garden
area where stunning weddings took place....oh to really
know more about this place!
I wonder if it's for sale!? So many questions were
racing through my mind along with so many thoughts
and visions of what it use to look like when it had been
loved and cared for....with all it's amazing architecture
you could tell a lot of thought went into this beauty!
I got back into the car and as I was driving away
I stopped in about the middle of the property to try
to get a photo of the front entrance to the house where
I could see the front door cracked open...made me sick
to see that wondering what kind of critters might be in
there and with all the rain, what that might be doing to
the inside entry way.....I wonder who would have left that
door open to begin with....were there vagrants sleeping
in there!? That was a scarey thought, maybe I shouldn't
try to go in there by myself....who knows what could be
lurking in there! Maybe I need to take someone with me
because I really really want to go inside! I wonder if there
is someone to ask permission to be able to do that...I AM
going to research that too! This is just driving me nuts!
I want to see and I want to know what the deal is with
this place....it breaks my heart to see this like this!
How dare someone do this!!
It's hard to get a good view of the front because of all the
trees on the other side of this wall. You can see the door
and if you notice that one tiny black spot, thats where the
door is opened. Gosh somebody needs to shut that door!
This photo is the left side of the house.....

the front door is the far right. If you notice, to the left of
this photo above, there is another building in a Mediterranean
design, with a tiled roof. It looks like a home and is quite large
but I can't find out anything about it as yet....but I will!

A shot looking down the sidewalk from about the
center of the property back towards the main entrance.

This is the second entrance we saw to the property.
Or maybe the exit gate.
At what I think is the exit gate....I notice how some
of the short columns had red brick tops on them.

A metal flag pole with lots of dried moss building
up on it....more arched openings with wrought iron.

Don't you just love this old oak with all the hanging moss!

The exit gate.

Once I got home I started emailing all the photo's I had
taken with my cell phone....they took hours to completely
download. When we had left I had noted the addresses
on the homes across the street from the mansion. I got on
google entering in the addresses I thought this property
might be and struck gold on my first try!

I spent all night researching this property from several
real estate companies, other blogs, and several different
newspaper articles I found. Found lots of pictures too of
the place before it went to ruins.

I found that this was an old mansion, a historic one at that!
I also found there is a very sad story attached to this gem!

Introducing my Delicious Discovery!!!.......

The Howey Mansion In Howey In The Hills, FL.

Built in 1925 by the owner, William J. Howey from
Odin, Ill. and his wife Mary Grace Hastings Howey
from, Harrisburg, PA. in the town of 
Howey In The Hills, FL. A town that Mr. Howey founded
in 1916, and in 1920 it bore his name. In 1925 it was
incorporated as the "Town of Howey." In 1927, the name
was officially changed to "Howey In The Hills" to reflect
the location of the town in an area of rolling hills which
he dubbed, "The Florida Alps."

Mr. William J. Howey - Photo Source

He was also the mayor of Howey in the Hills from
1925 - 1936. He ran for the Republican seat of Governor
for the state of FL. in 1928 and again in 1932 unsuccessfully,
but was involved in politics for years.

Known as Florida's greatest citrus developer, Mr. Howey
came to Winter Haven, FL. in 1908 where he bought up
thousands of acres of land and developed them into groves.
Some years later he came to Lake County buying up land
developing larger citrus groves. The first citrus juice plant
in Florida was built in Howey In The Hills by Mr. Howey in

It was here in Lake County,
(in the town of Howey in The Hills,)
that his mansion and estate was built.
Not far from where I live in Mt. Dora.

Mr. and Mrs. Howey with their two girls and the family dog at the left side of the Howey Mansion.
Not a very good picture but the only one I found. Photo Source
Mr. and Mrs. Howey had adopted two girls...Mary and
Lois Valerie, no children of their own. Mr. Howey died of
a heart attack in 1938 at age 62. At an untimely death, Lois
Valerie at age 16 was laid to rest with her father in 1941.
Mrs. Howey lived at the mansion until her death in 1981 at
the age of 92. Although I did read somewhere she was in a
nursing home in Eustis, near where her other daughter lives
prior to her death. All three were buried in three of six vaults
in the family mausoleum somewhere on the Howey mansions
property. The mausoleum is a small Georgian marble structure
with filigree glass doors, and a stained glass window to diffuse
the rays of the setting sun.

The mausoleum!
Photo Source

The home with its 20 rooms is 8,800 sq. ft. and when built
had a view of Little Lake Harris. Years later the land between
the home and lake was sold off and now consists of several
tree lined streets with homes on both sides. There is no longer
a view of the lake from the mansion. The cost to build the home
was $250,000 dollars. After inflation that's around $3.2 million!
Originally, Mr. Howey had planned on building his mansion
in Winter Haven where the Bok Towers now sits. After coming
to Lake County the plans change and he built here instead.
He also owned and developed the original golf course which
is now known as the famous Mission Inn Resort and Club, which
sits right behind and across the street from the Howey Mansion!
There is just so much about this man and this area!

 (Now I understand the two main entrances side by side.) -  Photo Source
 This was the home in the 1930's at the time when then
president Calvin Coolidge visited with Mr. Howey. I learned
they were friends. The home is a Mediterranean Revival style.
It is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places,
but didn't qualify for something for state monies.  I read
somewhere in my searching, that it would take over $1.5
million dollars to revive this beauty to include air
conditioning the entire place!

Photo Source - Photo taken Dec. 1929

This was the view of Little Lake Harris from the mansion before
all this property was sold off and developed into a neighborhood.

At the homes completion Mr. Howey hosted the entire New York
Civic Opera Company of 100 artists here at the mansion which
drew a crowd of 15,000 people all arriving in 4,000 automobiles
to the free outdoor performance. This was all paid for by Howey.
It was important to him that people be able to hear beautiful music.

Now the sad part....bear with me!

In 1984 a couple, Marvel Zona and her husband Jack bought the house. They paid $400,000. In 1996, with Jack extremely ill, the property was put in trust in Marvel’s name. She took out a reverse mortgage for $347,000 which she thought would pay her a fixed income. In 2000 Jack died, and in 2003 Marvel tried to sell it as a museum, but to no avail.

In 2005, scammers, pretending to be buyers, convinced Marvel that that if she “took out a $1.2 million loan, leveraged by a mansion she owned in Boone, NC, she could pay off the reverse mortgage.”Later, her son Rick Ritter explained that they conned her by saying this mortgage would facilitate the enventual sale of the big house.

And so it was that, at age 86, Marvel Zona signed into a $1.2 million adjustable rate mortgage. It’s teaser rate was only 1.25%, but this rate could change monthly, rising to 9.95%. Do the math: By this time her income was less than $1,000 per month, and her payments were $3,178 for 30 years.

Within two years, the NC mansion was lost, and Marvel’s beloved Howey House was in foreclosure.

In 2012, Marvel Zona’s attorney, Linda Vasquez Littlefield, is still battling the foreclosure. The original lender has disappeared like a ghost, and the service which acquired the loan, is mysteriously “unavailable.” In short, the mortgages are as complexly woven as the spider webs of the vaulted rooms; no serious investor wants to touch the twisted legalities. Other investors want no part of the extensive renovations ($1.5 million) that would be required to make the house livable again. The estate was essentially plundered.

When authorities found the scammers, Marvel Zona was too soft hearted to press charges. Linda Littlefield is slowly proving that the loan was “predatory and fraudulently underwritten.

Police have been called to the property multiple times whenever residents suspect vandals of entering the home, but so far most of the people caught there have been photographers or history buffs looking to get a glimpse of the mansion. Resisting the harsh Florida weather and after few cracks and broken windows, the mansion still seems solid. But how much longer can it stand? When will someone take the initiative to save this piece of history?

Now the old halls echo with loneliness and an unknown future.
And that, is just heartbreaking!

Can't find the source to this one....if anyone knows, please let me know to give credit.
Look how stunning she was at one time!


The "Lilly Pond" in the back yard with a
mermaid statue holding a shell up to the heavens.

This my friends, (especially those friends waiting on
Facebook), .... is why it took me so long to share
this discovery my grandchildren and I bumped across
on our way home from an outing at Little Lake Harris
and the park. Once I started digging I couldn't stop
wanting to find more about this place, it's owners, and
all the connections to them that I was discovering.

There is SO MUCH information from one thing to another!
I wish I could win the lottery and save her!

I'm adding some links at the end of this post for any of you
who want to learn more about the inside of the house itself,
more photo's including the inside, and more history of the
family and their story. I really hope I didn't bore you, and
you enjoyed our discovery. We certainly were in awe after
finding it really is a very special place and so historic.

Thank you so much for spending your time here with me
today. This was long but I so love history and the stories
of old, so I just had to share. This was a lot of research lol
so it took a few days to put this together for you.

I am going to see if I can't meet with the attorney handling
this case, to see what I can find out as to where this case
is at, and to see if I can photograph the inside.

I can't help it, but this thing is really pulling at my
heartstrings and I still have so many questions
about it all!

TaTa for Now!

Hugs, Love, and Blessings!
*Photos of Inside the Mansion (scroll to bottom of page)......
See links in pink within the post for information on
William J. Howey, The Howey Mansion, and
Howey In The Hills at the Howey in the Hills city website.


  1. Loving and sad at the same time...How awful for some mtg company to do that to an elderly widow. Too bad that it can not be taken in by someone who could afford to fix it up.

    Mortage companies are awful with the increasing payments. That is how I lost my home.

    Thank you for the beautiful photos and story....Looking forward to reading more of it. xoxo

    1. Hi Jackie...isn't it though! I wish someone would come along and save it...a musuem, or event place like for weddings, I so could see that there. Maybe even a B&B! Or just a home again! These mortgage companies these days are horrid! Plus the fact there are so many dishonest people today. But how they could do this to this woman is beyond me. I really believe they knew she wouldn't be able to handle the payments and did this to gain the property from her and at way less than it is worth. God help that place to survive the hands of the wicked!

      So sorry to hear that happened to you. Balloon payment mortgages ought to be outlawed in my opinion!

      So glad you enjoy the story...I'm still researching this and also looking to find out if there is someone to get permission from to go into the place and photograph it. I wish I could find a way to rescue this place...it's such a treasure!

      Thanks for stopping by and for the comment! Always love seeing you!

      Hugs and Stuff!

      EMAIL ME @ johneyi@cox.net THANK YOU

  2. Oh how very heartbreaking to see the demise of this historical beauty. Please let it be saved and glorified once again. You are such a dear for researching and posting about this home that once was such a part of our American history. Where is the Floridian Historical Society? Maybe someone or some organization will wake up and preserve and restore this home to its former glory. I truly love everything about it and the grounds. Thank you Debi for sharing.

    1. You're welcome...I'm so glad for your visit and that you care about it too! I am checking into some things for more information...and I'm glad you mentioned the Floridian Historical Society...I'll add them to my list too! That place needs to be saved and flourish again...it truely is such a beauty! It's heartbreaking to see it like that...it could be so beautiful again with some loving care.

      Thank you so much for the visit and the comment. Happy you enjoyed your visit!

      TaTa for now and have a wonderful day!


  3. Wow, what a beauty, but it's rather sad to see it the state it's in now. How wonderful it would be to be able to fix her up. Thank you for the photos and history. I happened to come across your delightful blog and I am now following along. I look forward to visiting again.


    1. Hi Stephanie! Welcome! So happy to see you here! Yes it is sad...very sad! Standing there looking at it the other day was just wrenching my heart that something like this could happen to it. It seems there has just got to be something someone could do to rescue this place. It is such a huge important part of this area's history. I got some things and peoplle I want to talk to to see what more I can find out about it. Something needs to be done before it's too late....I don't understand why the state doesn't do something!

      Thank you so much for your time here and thank you so much for the follow. I visited your blog and did the same and when I have more time I'll be back to visit for awhile. Loved the photos of your teacups!

      TaTa for now!

  4. Hi Debi,

    First I was in a wow state... then that turned into ahhh how sad.
    I would have loved to go in and peek inside. I would have been a bit "scared" though to what to find and such...
    we were all in awe and even chatted about it during dinner. Wonderful but sad conversation starter.

    Thanks for the research and sharing it.



    1. Hi Sandy! That was the same feelings I was having standing there looking at this place. I'm glad you enjoyed the story! I'm having fun digging into all of this. I still have so many unanswered questions that are just bugging me to pieces. I just wish and pray, somebody will save this place before it's too late! We'll see what I can find out. Prayers is what she needs now for sure. Thank you for spending your time here...always appreciated!

      Have a wonderful weekend!

  5. I live in blowing rock NC and the only mansion i know of is chetola I will try to research the other mansion but the one you have is truly a beauty

  6. So interesting! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  7. Great story, you did a lot of research good job. I feel so melancholic seeing this old beautiful mansions in disrepair and abandoned.

  8. beautiful but sad story. What happened to the second daughter?? So sad for a beautiful home to be abandoned and can't believe those evil people did that to the old woman. Just awful.

  9. Thank you for this incredible story. We stumbled on the Howey mansion today on our way from our winter place near Tampa to Mt. Dora. I posted your blog to my Facebook page and now many Canadian friends are marvelling at this wonderful - albeit tragic - bit of history too.

  10. Excellent story!!!! I found the picture of this old mansion on the Pinterest, and then it lead me to your blog.. I just love the old mansions and stories about them and this one is really sad... Hope that someone with money would notice all the beauty of this abandoned mansion and be willing to "sacfirice" some money to resolve the court issue of this property and then restore it to bring back the old charm.... But what happened with the adopted daughter Mary? It she alive, maybe she has some other photos and informations about the old days of the property?
    You really did the work and investigate all the story ;-) Thank you, greetings from Europe.

  11. I've read your story and am grateful for a lady like you.
    We have to remember our history at a time when so many are
    trying to erase it. Thank you for all your time and sharing.
    Marie in Galveston

  12. Did you know that you can shorten your long urls with AdFly and receive cash for every click on your short urls.

  13. The mansion has been sold to the Cowherd Brothers from Orlando. It is now being restored and will will become a bed and breakfast plus an event venue.


Thank you so much for the visit and your kind and lovely comments! Please come back and visit again! Have a blessed day!