Winter Park’s Historic Homes
Some Are More Historic Than Others
On June 16, Martha Bryant Hall submitted a request to place her house at 331 W. Lyman Ave. on the City of Winter Park Register of Historic Places. She based her application on the age of the home, which was built in 1958, and on the contributions to the community by her late husband, the Reverend Jerry Hall, who owned the home from 1958 until his death in 2008.
City Encourages Voluntary Designation?
Although the City Staff and some Commissioners have had a lot to say about encouraging citizens to voluntarily place their homes on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places, a citizen who has a larger, grander home may receive more encouragement than one who has a more modest dwelling. And, if that modest dwelling stands in the way of someone’s larger, grander plan, an application for historic designation might be regarded with less interest.
Criteria for Designation
The Historic Preservation Ordinance, No. 3024-15, which has been written and re-written since the last election cycle, is ambiguous at best. Click the link below and see Sec. 58-456.
The first criterion reads as follows;
a. A quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture is present in . . .buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and associations; and . . .
If the City Staff determines that the building in question somehow matches the above paragraph – which is written as a statement and not as one or more criteria — then it must also meet one of seven additional criteria. The ordinance continues to paragraph (b) thusly.
b. At least one of the following:
i. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
ii. That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or . . . . [five more criteria, which you can read by clicking here].
That the Hall residence was built in 1958 is, in itself, significant. That was the year the City of Winter Park displaced 18 families by eminent domain to create Lake Island Park, now known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. Reverend Hall and his family were obliged to move out of Lake Island Estates and into the Hannibal Square neighborhood to make way for the park.
July Staff Report –
A City Staff Report dated July 13, 2016, states that Planning Staff determinations are:
• The home has no distinctive architectural significance but it is being part of the post-war development of West Winter Park is significant.
• The designation would be based upon the importance of Reverend Hall and his contributions to the Hannibal Square neighborhood.
• In such cases, if a future demolition to HPB [Historic Preservation Board] were requested, the HPB could approve provided the replacement structure was architecturally compatible with the traditional neighborhood styles.
In conclusion: “Staff recommendation is for listing in the Winter Park Register of Historic Places as a historic resource property.”
August Staff Report –
A month later, on August 24th, the Staff Report read, “. . .while Reverend Hall was an important figure to the community, he passed away in 2008. It is still too early to know how his legacy and contributions to the city, especially in the Hannibal Square area, will be determined.”
No Historic Merit
At the August 24 meeting of the Historic Preservation Board, City Planning Director Dori Stone first stated that staff’s decision to deny historic designation to the Hall home was based solely on the architectural merits of the house. Stone pointed out that there are “literally thousands” of these houses all over Winter Park, and that the Hall residence is in no way unique or “even at risk.” She pointed out that the high rate of redevelopment was not limited to Hannibal Square, but was occurring all over the city. “Hannibal Square is not alone,” said Stone.
‘Too Soon to Tell’ About Rev. Hall
But then, despite her earlier assurance that the decision was based only on the architectural merit of the structure, Stone turned to the question of Reverend Hall’s legacy. “As for Reverend Hall’s legacy,” said Stone, “he only passed away in 2008, so it is premature to say what his legacy is at this time.”
Stone said the Planning Staff had consulted preservationists in other communities, who suggested an appropriate period of time might be 50 years [after Hall’s death], the same as for a structure. Stone did not identify those she consulted, and she declined the Voice’s request for comment and clarification.
‘Come Back in 50 Years’
While 50 years may or may not be an appropriate period to measure the impact of an individual life on a community, it is safe to say the little green house at 331 W. Lyman Ave. probably will not be standing — in the unlikely event that discussion ever takes place.
Martha Bryant Hall told the Voice that Ms. Stone had informed her in advance of the HPB meeting that her request had been denied. Hall said Stone told her, “Your husband just hasn’t been dead long enough.”
Narrow Definition of ‘Historic’
Dr. Julian Chambliss, Chair of the History Department at Rollins College, observed that Winter Park seems to take a very narrow definition of historic preservation. While nationally, preservationists are more interested in protecting the vernacular culture and architecture of a given community within the context of a given time, Winter Park seems to want to rely solely on the architectural merit of the individual structure.
“If you look at the key issues for the post-World War II black community,” said Chambliss, “they included civil rights, education and desegregation. Reverend Hall was deeply involved in that local narrative. The local efforts were key to supporting the broader national narrative of the transformation of our community.”
“To say it is still ‘too early’ to know how Reverend Hall’s legacy and contributions will be determined,” said Chambliss, “is tantamount to saying that the Hannibal Square community is still a work in progress. In fact, Hannibal Square is a fully functioning community whose origins pre-date those of Winter Park itself.”
Is the House in Someone’s Way?
Eight people submitted letters or emails in support of Mrs. Hall’s request to designate her home, and one party opposed it. Opposition came in the form of two letters from Kim C. Booker, Attorney at Law. The text of the two letters was identical, but in one letter Ms. Booker represented Winter Park Redevelopment Agency, Ltd. and in the other she represented Morney Partnership, Ltd. Both are companies of developer Dan Bellows.
Bellows and the Hall Family Have a History.
In June 2004, then WESH2 Anchor Wendy Chioji began her report, “Imagine answering your door one day and a man is standing there, saying he now owns half your house.
“That is what happened to the Rev. Jerry Hall, 89,” said Chioji. “The man at the door . . . – controversial businessman Dan Bellows.”
Bellows had indeed acquired a half interest in the Hall house at 300 S. Virginia Ave. Hall built the house for his daughter Catherine, retaining half ownership and giving Catherine the other half. After Catherine’s death, Hall moved into the house, planning to leave his half to Catherine’s children, but, upon Catherine’s death, her husband Clifford and their two children had already inherited their half, which they sold to Bellows.
That made Rev. Hall and Bellows co-owners of the house. Rev. Hall ended up selling his half to Bellows. And that is how the Halls came to reside at 331 W. Lyman.
The arrogance is just astounding. Sometimes I am so ashamed of my city.
Unfortunately, the news in this article is not news, but a repeated, shoddy story of W Park’s treatment of Hannibal Square or what is left of it after developers destruction derby land grabs.
We need a referendum on historic preservation in all parts of WPk., but especially in Hannibal.
Rev. Hall undoubtedly has made a signicant positive community contribution that will continue its influence on our local American heritage.
Can Bellows and his groups make a similar claim?
An excellent piece of investigative journalism!
It’s unfortunate how this situation was handled by Winter Park government officials. And it points to a basic problem with the City’s historic preservation policy.
1) Applications for historic designation of private properties should only be accepted from property owners. According to Orange County Property Appraiser records, the home in question is currently owned by a Maitland based limited liability company. The family could have been spared this ordeal had our City Commissioners been foresighted enough to limit applications to property owners only.
2) Also, somehow, Commissioners will have to address what is now epidemic among City department heads. That being the practice of giving residents a make believe story as opposed to the real reason for any controversial matter adopted by the City. I don’t think the residents expect the department heads whose salaries they pay, to B.S. their way through their jobs. Right or wrong, wouldn’t it be more respectable for the department head to tell the applicant, “Sorry, a majority of Commissioners want Lyman re-developed. And they think this application might block the bulldozers when that day comes. I wish I could help you. I really do. But I got a boss. And there aren’t that many $100K plus City jobs around anymore that offer the kind of benefits mine does.”
Sadly, tHe rules are different on the West side. If you’re a developer, you are handled with extraordinary care by the 3 amigos. If you are black, you’re treated with grave disrespect. Reverend Hall had a richer life in his long years of service than all of the Commissioners combined. Dori is a mouthpiece for Leary so rest assured anything from her is Leary speak. He, Weldon and Sprinkel are so rigid in their growth attitude, they cannot tolerate any recognition of Historic preservation unless it’s fake like the Colloquium awards or the glory given to the Carlisle developer for the disgraceful property grab on Garfield.
I have never agreed with the idea of voluntary designation as the only policy for historic preservation. That is merely sitting back and waiting to see what happens. If a city has an interest in preserving the assets that add to its value it needs to realize that preservation is an action. It is an endeavor that seeks to preserve, maintain and protect. Winter Park government has shown a fear of historic preservation and a hostility to historic preservation. They were fearful of having the term “heritage” remain in the vision. They have shown hostility toward Mrs. Hall by denying her application for a home that qualifies. They have shown hostility toward the formation of historic districts by rejecting the only progress that had been made in improving the historic preservation ordinance. I was told by a commissioner that there are funds in the budget for historic preservation. That is good to know. It would be good to know that the funds will be used to actively promote historic preservation. One suggestion would be to do a complete survey of the assets in the City. Another would be to identify neighborhoods that might qualify as historic districts and to go to those neighborhoods and educate the residents about the process. It should be done in a transparent way presenting both pros and cons. There are pros. It is not a question of losing property rights. I am watching for some POSITIVE ACTION that demonstrates that the present City Commission supports historic preservation
I attended the HPB meeting when Ms Martha Hall presented her case to have Rev. Hall’s house placed on the Historic Registry. The Board said it did not pass the first criteria. The first criteria is that the home is over fifty years old and that test it passed. After that, there are many criteria that can be used to determine qualification.
The Board Members, one after another, spoke “eloquently” about Rev. Hall but as the house did not qualify, they offered Ms Hall other suggestions to honor his legacy. The last suggestion was, “You could contact Randy Noles and ask him to write an article on Rev. Hall.”
I do not know how you would feel if that was suggested to you but I know how I felt when I heard it and I am ashamed.
Commissioners could show remorse for the insult by:
1) Renaming Lyman Avenue, “Rev. Jerry Hall Boulevard.”
2) Naming the new library, “Rev. Jerry Hall Winter Park Public Library,” or
3) Offering to move the Hall home to in front of Casa Feliz on Park Avenue and paying all real estate taxes in perpetuity.
Winter Park residents eagerly await the Commission’s action.
I’ve heard of many disgusting, morally corrupt actions the city of Winter Park has allowed against Hannibal Square and its residents but this take the reprehensive cake. Shame on you City officials and staff. What will your your legicies be?
So it’s easier to become a saint than to get a house on the west side designated a historic property; there’s something very wrong with this!
Two sides to every story:
Yes, Rev Hall gave a 50% INT in 300 w. New England Ave to his daughter Catherine who then built her home on the property. Catherine passed away at a young age leaving a husband and two small children who moved to eatonville.
I spent many years talking with Rev Hall and his wife Of more then 50 years Lela while redeveloping in Hannibal Square. In my opinion Rev Halls goal was to provide a Fianancil foundation for his two grandchildren, to help with college, starter homes for themselves when the time came.
Clifford Taylor Rev Halls son in law offered to sell the grandkids 50% INT back to Rev Hall. Rev hall declined and took no issue in having the grandkids realize the proceeds of the 50% that went into trust for the kids.
This took place in 1995.
In 1999 and after the death of Rev Halls wife Lela Marth Bryant stepped in and married a then 85 year old Rev Hall a mere 29 year age difference, hired a Miami lawyer to prepare quit claim deeds where Rev Halls substantial RealEstate holdings which he told me he wanted the benefit to go to his only grandchildren from his deceased daughter. However, the deeds were executed to the benefit of Rev Hall and his new young bride Martha Bryant.
What this meant was upon the death of Rev Hall his blood grandchildren would receive nothing.
Today, the properties have all been deeded out to a Martha Bryant family entity with Martha Bryant children from previous marriages in occupancy.
Rev Halls daughters children received nothing more from Rev Halls estate upon his death and his assets successfully transferred to the Bryant family.
As for the historic designation – where were the critics when a beautiful stained glass church was torn down at capes and comstock a few years ago with out a boo.
Where were the critics when the grant chapel was saved from the wrecking ball, moved onto Lyman Ave applied for a historic designation and denied?
Now comes an unoccupied cinder block home of no architectural significance and certain people want to suggest there is funny business by not approving it. Let’s play fair and by the rules.
I have also wondered how ms Bryant can run for Maitland city commissioner (she lost) but post a video near the same time stating she was a Winter park resident.
On the other hand I was born in Winter Park, raised my kids in Winter Park and have lived more then 16 years in Hannibal Square where I continue to reside. I think you will find Ms Bryant still lives in Maitland.
In closing why do so many out spoken persons responding or commenting on this blog feel so shameful to utilize there real name? You should think about only allowing posts from people who proudly stand up for there beliefs.
Correct e mail
Dan, I don’t understand your “side of the story.” Assuming for the sake of argument all your allegations about the applicant are true, what is the relevance? I doubt you would argue that the City should approve or reject applications based on an applicant’s character or reputation particularly if it goes back 20 years.
Surely you agree it’s strictly the merits of a request that should be relevant and control the approval process, and not whether the applicant is a “good person.”
I agree each home, each application for historic designation should stand on its on merits.
My comments related to rev Halls daughter, grandchildren and son in law. Not sure who you are suggesting who is or isn’t a good person? The facts, timelines and current ownership of the rev Hall properties speak for themselves.
There is a disgruntled person who is trying slander and smear Rev. and Mrs. Hall’s reputation. These are slanderous, derogatory remarks that are trying to discredit the Halls’ character. This is Defamation of Character. Each of us will Reap Our Harvest. “Lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God”. Colossians 1:10
A second Board review is deserved out of respect for Reverend and Mrs. Hall, and the messy public process by city staff. It was unprofessional. Two points:
1) Reverend Jerry Hall’s and Martha Bryant Hall’s home on Lyman is worthy of historic designation by Winter Park. It qualifies as Mid-Century Modern and was a significantly unique departure from the Vernacular Wood Framed construction of the day in Hannibal Square Community. This in itself is enough for it to deserve the designation.
2) Reverend Jerry Hall’s reputation and Legacy with the Hannibal Square Churches and Historic Community was established long before his death. His Legacy is intact today, over 50 years later. That is a truth known and accepted by the Hannibal Square Community.
In fact, it is the city staff’s flip-flopping (“For” one month; “against” another month) that confused the HPB. Based on this, the Historic Preservation Board should graciously invite Mrs. Hall to be formally reconsidered and the HPB should be more respectful of the Hall’s accomplishments and the Mid-Century Modern aspects of the house, which are quite “modern,” especially in its day. I for one see architectural significance in the Hall’s house and landscape and believe it needs to be reconsidered in the direct context of the Hannibal Square Community.
I wonder too why Mrs. Hall and her daughter need to see all white faces on the dais when they are presenting? Can we not have African American expertise familiar with the Hannibal Community as part of the discussion and evaluation process? After all, this is 2016, not 1893.