In 1923 Ernest Wandry completed his impressive Lake County home. The German immigrant and master concrete craftsman spent 16 years painstakingly building it room by room.
At that time, the stately 4,800 square-foot Grand Island home sat amidst orange groves that extended to the shore of Lake Eustis. Beyond the stone facade were six bedrooms and six bathrooms, two original fireplaces, a hand-cranked elevator, a root cellar and a massive basement with original boiler. The Wandry House also boasts a covered lower porch and wraparound upper porch with balustrade.
The basement once housed a vault filled with Wandry's gold, but sometime in the home’s rich history the stash went missing. Rumors that Wandry had hidden treasure in the walls led one former owner to take a metal detector into the basement and drive a few holes into the thick concrete walls with a sledgehammer. There are no reports anything was discovered.
In the early 1990s Grand Island Tennis Club purchased the Eustis historic landmark and its surrounding five acres to build a 14-court tennis club and recreation center. That plan was later scrapped, but not before the Wandry House was upgraded for commercial use by adding a 50 car parking lot, updated electric, commercial plumbing and septic, a clay tennis court, and a terraced lawn.
Currently, the home is in a state of renovation. Owners Jeff and Stephanie Clunn hope a buyer will appreciate the home's rich history and take advantage of its potential as an event center, high-end wedding venue, bed and breakfast, or tennis club, uses for which the City of Eustis has already given its approval.
The Wandry House is located at 3300 Grand Island Shores Road in Grand Island. Contact Jennifer Dempsey, historic home specialist, for a showing at 352-360-5981.
Photo credit: Jeff Hegarty
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Members of the Laughlin family owned the home until its sale in 1942. New owner, Eugene Speers, flipped it only after owning it a year and making his money back by selling off the estate's rare and valuable foliage acquired from the Laughlin's world travels . Speers also profited by logging the property's entire fifty-acre pine forest.
Speers sold Sydonie in 1943 to Dr. Du Bose who started Hampden DuBose Academy, a conservative Christian boarding school. Classes were held in the large barn out-building and it was then that the mansion was renamed Ewell Hall and re-purposed as the girls' dormitory. After the school transitioned from a boarding school to a day school in 1980, the mansion remained under utilized for several years.
Over the time, the 600 acre-compound was parceled off. In 1997, Sydonie and its surrounding 12 acres became the private residence of Dick and Carla Durante. The couple, a carpenter and an interior designer, set out to restore the mansion and save it from its certain demise.
Fast forward to 2014, when history and architecture aficionado, Amy Frogley and her husband Clark purchased the grand estate to complete its restoration and share it with the public.
The century-old, Sydonie Mansion, has had its share of starts and stops in the arduous process of restoration for almost 20 years. Today, the impressive historic estate is well on her way to a rebirth. The Frogleys are passionate about preserving the landmark's architecture and history.
The couple purchased the mansion in 2014 with the goal to complete the restoration and host weddings on the sprawling, oak-filled grounds. Eventually guided tours will also be available to help fund the Sydonie's continual restoration and maintenance.
The twelve-acre grounds are arguably some of the most stunning real estate in Central Florida. The Spanish Court at the center of the mansion, bears a strong resemblance to one of Alhambra's courtyards, which was the castle that inspired Sydonie's design. The courtyard boasts a long koi pond, flower gardens and a romantic whispering wall.
Then there is the boathouse. Descending through the lush tropical garden to the steps of the boathouse, visitors feel like they are either in Bali, Hawaii or Florida. Once inside, the rustic Mediterannean building almost transports its occupants to Italy's Lake Cuomo.
Sydonie was designed with an extraordinary balance of glamour and warmth. Although much of the ironwork and lighting are museum-worthy, Amy's favorite indoor spaces are the understated butler's pantry and staircase.
"These are some abnormally cozy spaces in the mansion," said Amy. "This staircase, still sports the original wood worn down from years by those that labored there."
"The Butler's Pantry cupboards smell like home to me and I love thinking of the massive amounts of work that took place in this area to get ready for an event back in the day," continued Amy
Sydonie's original antiques survived in the mansion until about 1995 when they were sold in an auction. "Barbra Streisand purchased the urns from the front porch and the andirons from the living room fireplace, " said Amy adding that she believes the bulk of the furnishings were sold to local residents.
The couple was forced to re-prioritize and adjust schedules after discovering the expense of various county fees and the recent unexpected expense of moving the septic tank found on the neighbor's property.
For more photos of Sydonie, click here.
To read the history of the mansion, click here.
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