Magazine article Journal of Property Management

A Community Home

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

A Community Home

Article excerpt

The residents of Winter Park, Fla., rallied around Casa Feliz to preserve a historic gem

Preserving history comes in many forms. To ensure the survival of Casa Feliz, a historic home museum in Winter Park, Fla,, the community stepped up and took action. The community's perseverance and dedication allowed the home, which was designed and built by celebrated central Florida architect, James Gamble Rogers II, to live its second life as a museum and rental facility for the community to enjoy for years to come.

In the early 1930s, a young, selftaught architect named James Gamble Rogers II was approached by Massachusetts industrialist Robert Bruce Barbour to design and build a home for him on the shore of Lake Osceola in Winter Park. Barbour wanted a 6,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, Spanish-style home. Beyond that, Barbour offered the young architect creative freedom to design the property.

"Rogers described this as a dream come true," said Betsy Rogers Owens, Executive Director of Friends of Casa Feliz, Inc., which operates the home today. "This was unprecedented freedom for a young architect to design a house ofthat size in a very prominent location in Winter Park, in the middle of the Great Depression."

Modeled after an Andalusianstyle masonry farmhouse, Casa Feliz has whitewashed, secondhand bricks that had been part of the Orlando armory. The house has a rich, textured Spanish roof tiles, a turret, a bell tower and a heavy timber balcony detailed in Mediterranean colors.

"One of Rogers goals was to make the house look hundreds of years old on the day it was completed," Owens said. "He did not want a pristine looking mansion. He wanted it to look old and time-weathered. There were several elements that he designed into the house that simulate the aging of the house."

For example, Rogers designed a six-inch dip in the roofline to give it the appearance of an aging structure. There is also a feature in the house called the Crumbling Arches, which look like archways from ancient buildings in the Andalusia region.

"It is hard for people to realize these details were part of the original design of the house," said Owens.

Upon its completion, Casa Feliz influenced the overall look and feel of the community. Rogers' Spanish eclectic architecture is the defining style of Winter Park, and he went on to become the go-to architect in Central Florida for beautiful, quality homes.

Save that House

While functioning as a private residence with five different owners for 70 years, Casa Feliz - and Rogers - became revered in Winter Park. Therefore, when someone purchased the property in 2000 and planned to demolish the house, the community was up in arms.

"By that time, James Gamble Rogers was the defining architect of Winter Park," said Owens. "To a much lesser scale, to Winter Park it felt like destroying a Christopher Wren cathedral in London. It felt like it would be a huge loss to the community."

People began picketing, and residents petitioned the city commission to issue a stay of execution - and it worked. The commission rescinded the demolition permit until they could formulate a plan. Meanwhile, the new owner of Casa Feliz realized that a legal battle was looming, despite the fact that there was no protective ordinance on the home at the time.

"He could tell it would be tangled up in the court system. So he told the city, if you get this house off my property, you can have it," Owens said.

Private citizens began raising money to have the house moved and restored. …

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