It began with an attraction. In 1881, the operator of a local boarding house made a lasting impression on one of her tenants.
Annie McDonald Stone, a divorced single-mother, married her boarder John Phillip Donnelly that year. Annie also happened to be the daughter of Donnelly's boss.
In 1893, Donnelly had achieved success in the citrus and real estate industries and built the most recognized home in Mount Dora. The yellow and white Victorian home with stained glass windows, dubbed "The Gingerbread House", sits on a homesite that was reportedly selected for its scenic view of Lake Dora and its location in the growing town. The large homestead was originally almost a square block in size and included a barn and tenant house. In 1975, the home was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.
Annie passed away in 1908. Donnelly, a Pittsburgh native, became Mount Dora's first mayor two years later. In 1924, he sold the the corner site of his property for a park to be named in his wife's honor. The price tag for what is now the site of Donnelly Park was $45,000.
Donnelly died in 1930 and the landmark home was later purchased by another prominent resident, D.F. Gorham. After Gorham's death during the Depression, the impressive home was purchased by the Masons and still serves as Masonic Lodge No. 238.
Over the years, many modifications were made to the home, including moving the staircase, adding a large kitchen and converting the upstairs bedrooms into one large meeting room and a small storage space. Today, the Masons rent the downstairs of the home for small events, wedding showers, meetings and luncheons.
In an effort to meet the rising cost of maintaining the landmark, Friends of The Donnelly House, a non-profit group, was formed. Their goal is to raise money for the deferred and continual maintenance of the historic home. Donations can be made by contacting email@example.com .
For more photos of interior of Donnelly House, click here. For more stories on the area's history, click here and scroll the articles. Get news for Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, here.