Howey Mansion: A treasured piece of Old Florida

The Howey Mansion epitomizes the 1920’s lifestyle of a wealthy citrus owner living in the wilds of Old Florida.

Howey Mansion located in the town of Howey-in-the-Hills, named for the mansion's owner in 1945.

Howey Mansion located in the town of Howey-in-the-Hills, named for the mansion’s owner in 1945.

The Howey Mansion sits in Howey-in-the Hills, a town located a little over an hour from Orlando. It is a sleepy town that hints at Florida life as it may have felt one hundred years ago. Living at the mansion was not that of an ordinary life, however. William James Howey sold insurance, worked in the railroads, created cars in Kansas City, and owned a pineapple plantation in México. The revolution there caused his move to Florida where he made a fortune buying up 16,000 acres of land quite cheap reselling much of it for a hefty profit. He kept a portion to begin a citrus business. He became known as the citrus pioneer of Florida.

The home was built in a time when craftsmen took great care and pride in their work.

The mansion was designed by Ms. Katherine Cotheal Budd, one of the first women architects. Mr. W. E Boyce was the builder. Construction began in 1925 continuing until its completion in 1927. The cost of the project was $250,000 which equates to 3.6 million today.

The home was the year-round residence of Mr. Howey, his wife, Mary, and their two daughters, Mary and Lois. Despite the financial success of the Howey’s, there was sadness as well. Mr. Howey only lived in the house for eleven years, dying of a heart attack in 1938. Shortly afterwards, Lois, then aged 16, died in a car accident. Mary Howey continued to live in the house until 1981 when she passed. Mrs. Marvel Zona, an heiress from Chicago, subsequently purchased the house. Mrs. Zona fell into financial difficulty causing the sale of the furnishings and ultimately losing the home in 2008. The house sat abandoned and in disrepair for ten years.

The walls in the foyer are the most unusual feature within the house. A youtube video identifies the walls as travertine. Actually, they are made of plaster. The idea was to mimic the look of the pecky cypress doors. Craftsmen created the plaster on site, cutting grooves into the material, and then adding the colorant. The door surrounds are also plaster but were finished differently creating a shiny appearance.

All of the lighting and iron work are original except for the flowers set into the niche and window. They were made to match a pair of sconces on the upstairs landing.

Dining room, Howey Mansion, Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.

Dining room, Howey Mansion.

The kitchen is from a time when the occupants were staff and not guests.

I love old kitchens that are created for function rather than decoration. Although spacious with several working areas the materials are simple.

A dumbwaiter sent food up to the breakfast room above.

The interior decorator of the project told us of the home’s reported ghost. She said that there was a white teacup inside of the cabinet known to change location from shelf to shelf.

A back stairway leads to the breakfast room, seen below.

A room with a view.

Beautiful details seen throughout the house that are missing from homes of today.

Lovely inlay of the oak floor in the ballroom.

Lovely inlay of the oak floor in the ballroom.

The ballroom. A portrait of Mr. Howey hangs over the fireplace.

My favorite room was the sun porch which served as a private living room for the family.

These broken tile floors paired with the tiled fireplace surround are perfectly charming and Old Florida.

Secret stairs led to a basement hiding the evening beverages, Howey Mansion.

Secret stairs led to a basement hiding the evening beverages, Howey Mansion.

Built during Prohibition, Ms. Budd made sure the family had a secret location for preferred beverages.

The Italianate feel of the loggia off of the ballroom.

One of a pair of original wrought iron sconces inspiring the copies on the stairwell wall.

The beautiful Tina Bryan, interior decorator of the Howey Mansion.

Here she is showing the location of a safe in Mr. Howey’s bedroom. While the house was vacant, someone broke into the house to steal it. They successfully removed it from the wall but dropped it on the floor creating the damage seen below. Other than this gash, the house is in remarkable condition.

The bathrooms have beautifully installed tile. The herringbone floors with a colored border are quite stylish.

The same herringbone pattern in Mr. Howey’s bath but with a yellow border.

Detail of Mr. Howey’s bath.

The home’s exterior has equally thoughtful details.

This lovely staircase leads from Mr. Howey’s bedroom to the garden.

An ingenius method of keeping water off the upper balconies.

Howey Mansion’s luck has improved since the Cowherd brothers purchased the home last year. It has now been restored and open for all to enjoy. Howey Mansion is available for weddings, corporate retreats or family reunions.

To learn more, see here. To watch the video of the mansion in its uninhabited state, see here.

Casa V Interiors can create the feel of Old Florida in your home.