Can an Old House Weather This Storm?

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Can an Old House Weather This Storm?

Guest Columnist John Skolfield

The Waddell House at 1331 Aloma Avenue was built in 1901, the year Walt Disney, Ed Sullivan and Louis Armstrong were born, the year President William McKinley was assassinated and Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th U.S. President. Hurricane Donna may have roughed up the old house in 1960, but she stood firm and hardly blinked at the Cuban missile crisis. In the end, however, she was no match for the Tennessee attorney who sheared off her façade — the intricate porch design that had been the face of this grande dame for more than 100 years.

Historic Designation in 2005

In 2005, Charles B. and Lurinda J. Smith had the home placed on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places. Mrs. Smith’s family had owned the Waddell House for well over 100 years. This act was intended to bring peace of mind and the assurance the house would be preserved and protected.

Situated on 45,600 square feet of land, historic designation allowed the Smiths to subdivide a 90-foot lot on the east, while preventing further lot splits by future owners. The Smiths could have razed the old house and, with city approval, split the lot into three 15,200 square-foot home sites. They chose instead to preserve a bit of history.

New Owners in 2019

In February 2019, fully aware of the designated historic status and the protections this provided, David and Deborah Dunaway purchased the home for $480,000. According to an email from City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs, the Dunaways met with City staff to confirm their intention to restore the home. They indicated the porch was unstable and that they planned to remove and replace it exactly like it was. Staff advised that before they could do that, their plans had to go to the Historic Preservation Board for approval.

Porches Removed Within the Year

On the weekend of July 8, however, the Dunaways applied for a permit to remove the porches, and rather than wait for the permit to be granted, they had the front and rear porches removed without a permit on the weekend of July 13-14, just before they returned to their home in Tennessee.

City Issues Stop Work Order

On Monday July 15, the Building Department issued a Stop Work Order and directed the owners to submit plans for the restoration of the porches. A tarp had been draped over the roof, but it was improperly secured, and by mid-September, the house had endured two months of water intrusion — a house with horsehair plaster walls and heart of pine floors. Briggs emailed the owners, who said they would correct the problem, but by October 7, nothing had been done to secure the tarp to prevent water intrusion. There was no reply from the Dunaways.

‘Don’t Think We Can Fix It’

Briggs wrote that the owner later said he has retained the services of Orlando Constructors and Inspectors, “to do a complete appraisal of the structural integrity of the home to determine if repairs are possible and feasible or if the home needs to be demolished.”

The neglect of the house appears to be strategic.

City Ordinance Requires Reconstruction

On Tuesday, October 29, I met with City Manager Randy Knight, Assistant City Manager Michelle Neuner, City Planning Manager Jeff Briggs, Director of Planning and Community Development Bronce Stephenson, and historic preservation expert Christine Dalton. They confirmed that City zoning code, Section 58-500, requires the historically accurate reconstruction of the removed porches and provides for heavy penalties for illegal removal.

Demolition by Neglect

In an email to Jeff Briggs, Christine Dalton, formerly Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Sanford and currently a Trustee of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, expressed her concern about the condition of the Waddel house. “With the information I have received so far,” she wrote, “it appears obvious that the property owners are engaging in Demolition by Neglect. They are dismantling the home and have not properly protected it from the elements. As you know, this is a strategy of many property investors – create conditions for deterioration, then hire a structural engineer to write a report stating that the building is unsafe and therefore must be demolished.”

Case Goes to Code Enforcement Board Dec. 5

On November 1, the City sent the owners a Notice of Violation advising them that a Public Hearing before the Code Enforcement Board was scheduled for 3:00 pm on December 5, 2019. The description of the violation was “Porch Structure Removed Illegally Without a Permit.”

Stated Compliance Requirements were, “Submit Plans for the Restoration of the Porch Removed Without a Permit,” with a deadline of November 15, 2019.

According to Briggs, “Nothing can happen with the home until a proposal/plans are submitted to the HPB [Historic Preservation Board], or (upon appeal) the City Commission can approve the demolition of the home.”



  • author's avatar

    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

  • author's avatar

20 replies
  1. Lisa Everett says:

    Thank you, John, for your research and for following through with the City to make sure the proper processes are complied with for this designated structure. Also, I noticed what I believe is new tarping on the roof; thank you to the person(s) responsible.

    • Monte Livermore says:

      I am shocked that this wanton destruction of Winter Park’s heritage has been allowed to occur! Winter Park has rules in place to prevent this and they should be enforced. Once these structures are gone they can’t be replaced. I sincerely hope it’s not too late.

  2. WP resident says:

    This house is really not “historic” – it is just old. It is a bit of an eyesore and really *needs* to be demolished.

    Regardless, the author fails to note that his business is that of renovation, *not* new construction. He is more than a bit conflicted.

    The owners should be able to decide for themselves what is best. They have every incentive to create value on their property.

  3. Monica Petith says:

    Thank you, John, for your research.

    It is outrageous that a house that has survived 120 years is being defaced and insideously damaged by what seems to be the “strategic” neglect of the new owners.

    What remedies will the City require of David and Deborah Dunaway, the new owners, for not only not complying with the law, but also damaging one of Winter Park’s historic treasures?I hope they will be required to make the now damaged historical house WHOLE again as well as pay a hefty fine. Also, they have offended our community and ought to make genuine amends to us.

  4. Anonymous says:

    As a nearby resident, it is truly a shame that intentional and obvious neglect has taken place. With that said, this is now becoming an eyesore, which is unfairly granted to this historic home. I would recommend (if this is possible). Have the city of winter park purchase the property back from the Dunaways for what they paid for this home ($480,000) and impose HEAVY fines (applicable at closing and deducted from the Dunaways return at closing) to help cover restoration and repaired construction to bring this home back to its original architecture beauty.

  5. Tom Ackert says:

    The key issue is the integrity of contractual relationships and Governmental responsibility. The family that owned the property for 100 years elected to forego their own financial gain and entrusted the City to enforce the historical designation. The new owner was completely aware of these requirements, but decided to proceed with disregard. One comment above said “the owners should be able to decide for themselves what is best”. Think about that statement; how would zoning, noise ordinances, code and law enforcement and dispute resolution work under an anarchical system? Any potential donor of property for community benefit has to be chilled by such a thought.

    • WP Resident says:

      Wrong. The point is that owners have the innate incentive to make their properties as appealing as possible. Nobody said anything about noise ordinances and law enforcement! This is about basic property ownership.

      Clearly, the WP preservation committee is a power hungry group of people willing to trample on the basic rights of a very reasonable owner.

      • WP Law says:

        Are you joking? The buyer acquired the property subject to historic designation and restrictions and intentionally proceeded with demolition, illegally and without a permit. Owners have rights but they don’t have the right to ignore rules and procedures. Property rights are not absolute.

  6. Just Obey the Laws You Like says:

    Civil society depends upon the pact among all to promulgate, adopt and then observe the rules by which we will live. These people knew the rules, lied about their intentions, bought the home and skipped town.

    It is hard to imagine that they will be sterling neighbors or community assets.

    I advise caution if they offer to bring in your mail or watch your dog while you are away for the weekend. Ask Jeff Briggs.

  7. Bonnie Ferguson says:

    Please hold the new owners accountable and do not give in! This home has historic value for Winter Park and must be preserved!

  8. Doriana Atkinson- Fitch says:

    I am distressed to see such disregard for a home designated as a historical property!
    Not only should the new owners be fined, but the City should make sure that this home will not be destroyed and replaced with new construction.
    Also, this property should not land in the hands of some developer hungry for prime property to develop.
    Enough is enough!

  9. The Old Girl says:

    The Old Girl sat in her rocking chair
    Looking our her window.
    All she could do was stare
    As the setting sun drew her shadow.

    “I was old when you were young,”
    She said to no one in particular
    As the Aloma breeze made her screen door swing
    Her uncertain fate saw her anger simmer.

    “I know Rollins and Morse,
    Fairbanks and Knowles,
    Chase and Chapman,
    Temple and Comstock.”

    “We talked last night.
    They said it looked grim.
    Even though we were right,
    The future looks dim.”

    Then the sky opened up
    And down came the rain.
    It dripped in her tea cup
    The blue tarp did strain.

    “Oh I don’t know,”
    Now with tears in her eyes.
    “Maybe they’ll make me
    An AirBnB or a bar nowise!”

    There’s not much hope left
    For gals such as this.
    Historic home theft –
    The past we will miss.

    Apartments and bars
    Are Winter Park’s future.
    More and more Tars
    The Canopy built amidst furor.

    And all because
    No one cared about the girl
    Who sat in the rocker
    On her Aloma estate.

  10. History Buff says:

    I believe wholeheartedly in property rights. It’s my land. The right to have a pet elephant, tied to a stake in the front yard; the right to convert my home into a rooming house; the right to build four stories tall. I can do all that in the jungles of a third world country, but not here in Winter Park. The right I do, however, cherish, is the right to die knowing that while I accepted the financial loss when designating the family home, I may rest in peace knowing the city will enforce the rules.

  11. N F says:

    For years I have enjoyed briefly viewing this Historic Home when driving on Aloma. I side with those who believe the buyer should be fined heavily, all rules & laws enforced (and should have before now been enforced) and the home should be restored paid for by the buyer. All of Winter Park homes do not need to be the newer Mediterranean look. It is great having the special Historic Homes in Winter Park. I owned a 1926 Historic FL Bungalow in Rollins College Quarter for years and still say it was my most loved Winter Park home. Even though the buyer made changes like destroying the original hand built cypress kitchen cabinets for new ugly ones, I thanks goodness the bungalow is still lived in and adds to the look of all the bungalows in that area.


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