Vacant mansion is a massive memento in decline

The vacant mansion that citrus producer William John Howey built in 1927 (Credit:
The vacant mansion that citrus producer William John Howey built in 1927 (Credit:

Once the social hub of the town, a vacant 20-room mansion in Winter Haven built in 1927 missed its calling as a museum and may have become an unmarketable historic memento.

The original owner, wealthy  citrus producer William John Howey, arranged for the New York Civic Opera Company to perform a free outdoor concert for 15,000 guests to celebrate the completion of the 7,200-square-foot mansion in 1927.

Howey died of a heart attack in 1938, and his widow continued to live at the mansion until her death in 1981.

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A buyer named Marvel Zona and her husband Jack paid $400,000 for the property in 1984. Under Zona’s ownership, public tours of the mansion began. She proposed that Lake County operate the property as a museum with state support. But the private ownership of the property made it ineligible for unding through the state’s historic preservation program.

In 2008, a mortgage lender foreclosed on Zona and she lost ownership of the mansion.

The current owners want to sell but may have to hold on for a while: They reportedly want no less than $2 million for the property, but necessary repair work and the installation of an air conditioning system would cost about $1.5 million more.

Look at these interior photos, and it’s easy to see why the Winter Haven estate could have served as a museum. [The Daily Record]Mike Seemuth