Passersby find it intriguing. Lovers of architecture clamor for a peek inside. The newly-renovated Howey Mansion has certainly been garnering lots of attention, and for good reason.
After almost ten years of abandonment and months of renovation, the historic Lake County landmark, set behind its expansive u-shaped driveway in Howey-in-the-Hills, has been transformed into a stunning venue for special events and historic tours.
The metamorphosis hasn’t been easy. Over the last decade, the Mediterranean Revival mansion completed in 1927 by orange grove magnate William J. Howey and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, sat in a sad state of neglect and deterioration.
That all came to an end last July when the 20-room mansion, complete with a hidden passageway and three stately fireplaces, was acquired by Brad and Clay Cowherd for $630,000.The brothers purchased the property from the mortgage holder after the previous owner, Marvel Zona, a Chicago heiress, lost the property in foreclosure almost ten years earlier. Zona and her husband reportedly purchased the property for $400,000 in 1984 after the passing of Howey’s widow, Mary.
By the time the property finally found its way out of legal wrangling and changed hands to the Cowherds, tropical vines had entombed the weather-beaten exterior for years and hinted at the extensive deterioration inside.The Cowherds hired restoration manager Tracey Spence to painstakingly oversee every detail of the expansive project.
Much to everyone’s amazement, the impressive doors, stained glass, corbels and fixtures that originally adorned the stately mansion were still in place. However, that’s not to say the renovations weren’t exhaustive.
The completed first phase included aesthetic and functional repairs. The ubiquitous vines were removed, floors were refinished, and plaster, woodwork and wrought iron features were repaired. No detail was left undone, including re-installing period fixtures and recreating decorative wrought iron to blend with original iron work.
A new terrace was added for special events. The Cowherds also replaced the septic system, installed central heat and air conditioning, leveled the courtyard, and completed a myriad of other fixes. The first phase of improvements came with a hefty price tag of approximately $600,000.
In addition to one-hour guided tours of the mansion and its grounds, weddings and special events are now being hosted at the estate. Clients can elect to use the Grande Lawn, terrace, Grande Entrance, ballroom, courtyard, bridal suite, and formal dining room. The venue now has a commercial kitchen and is exclusively partnered with Arthur’s Catering in Orlando for all events.
The outside event spaces can accommodate up to 500 seated, while the ballroom can accommodate up to 90 seated. Rental of the mansion for an event can vary depending on dates, however the rate starts at $4000 for the full mansion.
The next stage of renovations will include adding restrooms, installing permanent lighting in the courtyard, adding gas in the fireplaces and enhancing the landscaping on the mansion’s grounds. With all the challenges a neglected mansion brings, the most difficult was finding craftsmen with the experience and expertise that such a project demands, according to Brad Cowherd.
The results are impressive. From the artisan-crafted front doors and the unique poured-plaster grand foyer to the massive beamed ceilings and tranquil courtyard, the renovated Howey Mansion doesn’t disappoint.
The mansion is located at 1001 Citrus Avenue in Howey in the Hills. Tours are $20 per person and must be booked in advance online. See more photos of the mansion here.