She has been a phoenix in the making for almost two decades. The century-old, Sydonie Mansion, has had its share of starts and stops in the arduous process of restoration.
Today, the impressive historic estate nestled on Mount Dora's southern edge is well on her way to a rebirth. New owners Amy & Clark Frogley are passionate about preserving the landmark's architecture and history. The couple purchased the thirteen bedroom, ten bathroom Mediterranean Revival mansion in 2014 and plans to complete its restoration and share it with the public later this year. The ultimate goal is to have weddings on the sprawling, oak-filled grounds, as well as guided tours of the mansion to help fund its continual restoration and maintenance.
Originally built in 1885, 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.
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.
Among their many plans for the impressiveestate, the Frogleys hope to turn its large laundry building into the mansion's visitors center.
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.
Approximately three years ago, a local antique dealer was reportedly called to appraise the antiques and sold some of Sydonie's contents from the front porch. During that sale some of the mansion's window shutters, screens and summer fireplace screens were inadvertently sold. The Frogley's hope to find those original, custom-fitted shutters, to help protect the historic landmark from Florida's strong storms.
" We would gladly pay what was put out for them to whoever has purchased them. It would be so amazing to get them 'home' someday," said Amy.
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.
The Frogley's hope to open Sydonie's doors this fall to share its history and renewed beauty with the public. A charity event benefiting Camp Boggy Creek is planned as a 60-day unveiling event. After that event daily tours of the mansion will be available Monday through Saturday.
Sydonie is in the process of being placed on the National Register of Historic Places and will likely receive the designation as the oldestmansion in Florida later this year.
The streets of Mount Dora will be awash with visitors again during this month's Spring Collectibles & Crafts show. Over 250 vendors are expected to set up with year along the streets of downtown on March 19-20,
The show marks the last downtown festival of its type for the season and has evolved from an antique show in the streets to an eclectic, family-friendly event. The weekend will feature plenty of diverse crafts, good music and a range for food vendors, plus a handful ofcollectible exhibitors offering a wide range treasures.
Admission is free to the two-day event and free shuttles are available from a park-and-ride lot at Mount Dora High School on Highland Street.
Visitors can catch the show Saturday and Sunday from 9am-5pm throughout the streets of downtown.
This, too, shall be greater than the sum of its parts. The Annual “FAN”tastic Quilt Show will be held the first weekend in March and attendees are promised a lot to see.
Nearly 200 unique quilts and items will be on display, plus demonstrations of new techniques and products will also be featured throughout the day. Attendees can shop for quilts and supplies, bid on a large selection of auction items or taken in the fashion shows scheduled each day around noon. Additionally, guests are welcome to bring their own quilts for appraisals
The show will be Friday, March 4, 9 am to 5pm and Saturday, March 5, 9 am to 4pm at Lake Receptions, 4425 Highway 19A, Mount Dora. Salads, sandwiches, sweets and drinks for purchase. Admission is $7 each day. Parking is free.
A late-night, mano-a-mano battle will unfold in Mount Dora this later this week. Two local chefs will compete in the open kitchen of Pisces Rising during its After Hours Supper Club on Sunday, February 28th.
This culinary competition will test the cooking abilities and creativity of Casey Aldridgeof Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora and Clemente Rodriguez of Mary's Kountry Kitchen in Tavares.
Aldridge has been cooking professionally for 12 years and joined Lakeside Inn last spring. Ironically, his first job in the restaurant industry years ago was working at the inn as a bus boy. Among Aldridge's many dishes, his signature one is an andouille sausage and cornbread stuffed chicken with a smoked gouda sauce.
"I also make a mean corn pudding," said Aldridge.
Although Rodriguez' love of cooking began at home with his parents, his culinary education started at Mount Dora High School with Chef Hass. To further his craft, Rodriguez continued to Lake Technical Center and then to the more formal Le Cordon Bleu which allowed him to incorporate diverse cooking techniques and styles.
Both Aldridge and Rodriquez heap praise on the chefs at Lake Technical Center’s Culinary Program for cultivating their passion for cooking.
In the true spirit of competition and unpredictability, a secret ingredient will be announced at the event that must be included in the chefs' dishes.
The judges panel will consist of past contestant Christopher Robb Murray of Creative Culinary Solutions alongside the first winner of the After Hours Supper club, Ben Yancey.
The event is open to the public from 9:30 to midnight at Pisces Rising at 239 W. 4th Avenue, downtown Mount Dora.
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Entertainment unlike any Mount Dora has hosted before will be a concert hosted in March at the Modernism Museum Mount Dora. A mesmerizing concert by Jared Violin is expected to leave the audience in awe of his solo electric violin performance.
The concert on March 4th will be set against the backdrop the beauty of the museum's 'esherick to NAKASHIMA' exhibit. Viewing of the museum will be available during intermission and after the show.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a sparkling wine reception, and show will start at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person and $25 for museum members. To make reservations call (352) 385-0034 or stop by the museum Tuesday - Sunday, 10am - 5pm.
Mount Dora's gorgeous scenery won't be the only thing turning heads along the lakefront in March.
Lake Dora Classic, a car show featuringEuropean exotics and American muscle cars, as well as classic and antique vehicles, will take place on the shore of Lake Dora on March 5.
The lighthouse will be the backdrop as Elizabeth Evans park is transformed into a sea of glistening chrome and impressive horsepower of Ferraris, Porsches, Mustangs and more.
The event will benefit the Mount Dora Heroes Foundation, a non-profit organization created to enhance public safety and law enforcement in the Mount Dora Police Community. Dedicated funds help strengthen ties with the community; honor fallen officers and their families; keep pace with advancing technology and advancing the police K-9 program.
The judging of this year's car show will be 'French style', which focuses on 'wow' factor, in addition to originality, restoration and functionality. Awards will include: Longest Distance, Mayor's choice, Oldest Vehicle, People’s Choice, and Best of Show .
Admission is free to the public 10am - 3:30pm and attendees can enjoy a picnic lunch in the shade or the café hosted by Pisces Rising
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Some milestones are bigger than others. A 90-year anniversary? That qualifies as huge.
2016 marks 90 years for the The Mount Dora Art League and Mount Dora Center for the Arts is leading the celebration. The center will host a 10-day art exhibit to showcase original artwork from thirty participating artists. The exhibit will include various mediums, as well as feature many 12” x 12” pieces to provide affordable originals to art lovers.
The exhibit, in MDCA's gallery at 138 E. 5th Avenue in downtown Mount Dora, will kick-off with a free, 1920's themed reception on February 26th from 6-8pm. The exhibit will run until March 4th.
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What's old is new again. Later this month TheMount Dora Boomerz, a rock and roll oldies band, will have a reunion fundraiser performance benefiting K9S For Warriors.
Founded in 2011, the non-profit K9S For Warriors provides service canines to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disability and/or traumatic brain injury as a result of military service post 9/11. Their goal is to give a new leash on life to rescue dogs and military heroes by empowering them to return to civilian life with dignity and independence. Since inception, nearly 200 veterans and service canine teams have graduated the K9s For Warriors training program with 100% success rate in suicide prevention.
The event will be held February 20th at Beach Bums, Eustis' newest bar opening soon at 12 South Bay Street.
The Mount Dora Boomerz evolved from a creative group of friends with an eclectic range of day jobs including professional photography, massage, graphic design, therapy and music instruction. In 2000, the friends joined their musical talents for fun and to raise money for various non-profit groups. The group raised almost $25,000 for charities from 2000-2007, according to original band member Rachel Williams.
The eight member band features Lake County residents: John Burkhart, vocals; Steve Williams, bass; Robert Cohen, drums; Bob Sharff, guitar; Logan Heinzelman, keyboard; Rachel Williams, Carole Warshaw, and Jane Trimble, vocals. The concert begins at 7 p.m. and there will be a $5 donation at the door. All proceeds go to support K9S For Warriors. For more information on the non-profit visit www.k9sforwarriors.org.
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Above: Members of The Mount Dora Boomerz (photos by Mount Dora Buzz)
The was so much talent at this year's festival that it made judges decisions more difficult than usual. Mount Dora Center for the Arts' jury did an excellent job selecting a strong group of talented and difference artists. The following is the list of winners for 2016:
Best of Show $5000 – John Mascoll – Fine Crafts - Safety Harbor, Florida
Judges Choice 2D $1500 – Charles Gatewood – Painting - Phenix City, Alabama
Expect to see a whole lot more purple in the scenic areas of Mount Dora, Tavares and Eustis. The Fun Bus which had its soft launch in early November, will begin its much anticipated weekly tours this Thursday, February 11. The 90-minute tour features comedic characters to entertain passengers as attention-getting bus rambles down the streets of the three cities.
The family-friendly adventure will depart in front of Mount Dora's Chamber of Commerce on Alexander Street and slowly progress through the main shopping streets of Mount Dora. The comical guides will divulge the area's shopping and dining treasures, local secrets and local history while sharing the power of positivity.
The light-hearted adventure takes guests through scenic back streets, along Lake Gertrude, over route 441 to the beautiful East Crooked Lake Drive then into downtown Eustis. A 15 minute stop gives visitors the opportunity to stretch their legs, shop and experience downtown Eustis.
Later, the Fun Bus is pulled over by a replica of the Mayberry police car and a Barnie Fife-type character is introduced. Personal tours in the back seat of Barnie’s vintage police car will be available for $15 followed by a tour of the historic Mount Dora jail and museum.
The tour continues down scenic Lakeshore Drive to the Dora Canal. The tour continues to entertain with trivia and sing-along, plus a recap of the tour, and a patriotic conclusion.
The Fun Bus, conceived by Lynn Wisniewski and Dave Hurley, local optimists and local business owners. The two saw a need to create a fun, positive experience for locals and visitors to the tri-city area. Wisniewski manages the tours and sells tickets from her creative and inspirational gift shop, Under the Cherry Blossoms at 443 N. Donnelly Street.
Tours are Thursday through Sunday, at 11:30 and 2:00 pm. Adult admission is $35, children under age 11 are $15.
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It began as many great things do, with a small group of devotees. A woman who apparently wouldn’t take no for an answer, founding president Celia Clafin, detailed the history making Mount Dora's IceHouse Theatre a reality.
In 1948, land located where Mount Dora Boating Center sits today, became destined for the city's community theater. The IceHouse Players Theatre was obligated for $100 monthly rent for an old ice plant building which sat vacant since the advent of refrigeration. The re-purposed ice house was so close to the railroad tracks that performers had to pause until the train passed.
The enthusiastic group of volunteers never knew where the next dollar was coming from, according to Clafin's history. As new crises arose, the group proved persistent by holding an auction, bingo game, dance and rummage sale to continue funding their passion. After much anticipation, IceHouse Players Theatre's first production, “Return Engagement”, opened on February 7, 1949 to an invitation-only audience.
In 1957, Clafin and a new group of volunteers accomplished yet another seemingly-impossible task: they convinced the City of Mount Dora to donate a new location at 1100 North Unser Street, which is the current location of the theater.
The first season of the newly relocated IceHouse Theatre opened in November 1958 with “The Solid Gold Cadillac”. By that time the community endeavor had become widely known throughout the Southeast as one of the best little theaters, according to Clafin. Although an upgrade from its previous location, the brand new building lacked air conditioning until 1965, so no performances were held from April until October.
In 2011, a significant gift from long-time IceHouse benefactors, John and Carolyn Sonnentag, allowed the theater to make renovations both inside and out.
The newly renamed, 270- seat Sonnentag Theatre at The IceHouse, headed up by managing artistic director Darlin Barry, now boasts six productions a year. Barry, who came onboard in 1992 as an actor, is now in her tenth year managing. She, along with scenic designer, David Clevinger, ensure the high production quality of the shows. The modest ticket prices range between $10-$20 and make it affordable to a wide audience.
The theater has come a long way from its early days, yet one thing remains the same: it’s community volunteers and their enthusiasm that help make it work. For information on this seasons shows, click here.
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By Aimee Fried, Mount Dora Buzz writer
Above: The Sonnentag Theatre at the IceHouse as it is today. Below: The demolition of the orginal theater on the waterfront.