ABOVE: Jim Homich and his wife, Kerry Mullen, in front of the L. L. Farnsworth House, built in 1887.
Under the cover of darkness, the pair was gone. Protected from certain destruction, the precious and cumbersome cargo was carted away on huge trailers. And that was just the beginning of their journey.
The process began in 2001 when a Mount Dora resident learned of two historic homes set to be demolished to add parking. James Homich, a lawyer and former Mount Dora City Council member, was no stranger to the city’s history. In 1996, Homich, who caught the historic preservation bug after being schooled in New England, moved into Mount Dora’sAlvaretta Zepplin House, built in 1923. After he married, it became his family’s home with his wife Kerry and their two daughters, Molly and Ainsley.
ABOVE: The now “Purple” house is the L. L. Farnsworth House was built in 1887, pictured here in 1902.
Although the deteriorated homes slated for destruction were mere shells of their past glory, Homich made a last ditch effort to rescue a part of the quaint town’s history.
The First Presbyterian Church agreed to sell both the blue Hubbell House, built in 1915, and the yellow Birkbeck Rental House, built in 1918, for one dollar each, provided Homich agree to pay the $25,000 each to relocate them to the rear of his property.
Moving the houses was no easy feat. The porch of Birkbeck House had to be removed and the Hubbell House was divided into two sections. Finally, in the fall of 2001 the homes were put onto large trailers to make the evening trek across town to their new site on Fifth Avenue. The second phase was constructing their foundations which was done in 2002. The next major stage was developing a site plan and putting in the necessary infrastructure on the newly subdivided lots.
ABOVE: The relocated blue Hubbell House, built in 1915, and the yellow Birkbeck Rental House, built in 1918.
The family had just completed that process when the 2008 recession hit and money was temporarily unavailable to renovate the homes. In 2010, the preservation efforts continued, but it wasn’t without challenges. According to Homich, the greatest challenges were the efforts by the City’s planner and code enforcement department to derail the project. Rather than encourage the family in their sizable historic preservation project, city officials made every step a complete and needlessly costly nightmare, according to Homich.
After much persistence, legal wrangling and financial sacrifice, the family completely restored the “Blue” and “Yellow” homes and sold them as private residences.
ABOVE: The renovated blue Hubbell House and yellow Birkbeck Rental House,
Restoration was recently completed on their “Purple” house, the L. L. Farnsworth House that sits next to their family’s personal residence. The Farnsworth House was built in 1887, the same year the railroad opened in Mount Dora and changed the city’s future.
Today visitors entering Mount Dora by Fifth Avenue get a glimpse of the colorful historic homes as they approach downtown. And as if in silent tribute, there is only an empty, grassy lot where the houses previously stood.
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