Leu House Museum

The Leu House Museum is located inside Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, FL. Overlooking Lake Rowena, this stately residence is on the National Register of Historic Places. Although we’ve been to the botanical gardens many times, this was our first tour of the house.

 

The original owners were the Mizell family who claimed the land in 1858. There they grew sugar cane, cotton and corn. David Mizell was the sheriff of Orange County. He got killed in an ambush in 1870. Duncan Pell, the next owner, hired David’s son to add two more wings to the house. He made this a weekend getaway for him and his second wife, silent screen star Helen Gardner.

The Woodward family came next in 1906, adding on to the house to make it the present size. They used the house for a winter retreat.

Finally, Harry P. Leu and his wife Mary Jane bought the property in 1936. They traveled widely and brought back seedlings and plants for their garden. They donated the acreage and house to the City of Orlando in 1961.

Inside, the rooms have been restored with a mixture of original furnishings and donations. The lifestyle reflects turn-of-the-century living. The first families lived without plumbing and electricity, which were later additions.

       

Through the front door, we entered the living room. There’s a pleasant parlor to the left and a dining room straight ahead, with a staircase next to a bookshelf I’d like in my home. Most of these rooms had fireplaces.

       

              

    

The kitchen has been modernized in some ways but still has a wood-burning stove and an old-fashioned refrigeration unit. Originally, it was a warming room while the food was cooking in an outbuilding accessible from a breezeway. But then the kitchen moved indoors.

   

The upstairs held several bedrooms that looked bright and airy. They appear easily habitable.

     

 

A screened porch out back would have been a pleasant place to relax during temperate weather.

  

On the paths back to the garden entrance, we viewed some of the glass and steel sculptures by Alex Heveri for a special exhibit. Otherwise, try to time your visit to include a tour of the house. Go to https://leugardens.org for more information.

 

Leu House Museum is worth a trip to Leu Gardens in Orlando #Florida #history Click To Tweet

We enjoy touring botanical gardens and historic homes. Are there any near you?

Stetson Mansion Christmas Tour

We enjoyed our self-guided tour through the Stetson Mansion in Deland, FL. The place is known for its massive Christmas decoration display that is amazing and unique. Built in 1886 for hat manufacturer John B. Stetson, the house deployed Edison electricity, steam heat, a call bell system, and running water for all three floors. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Each room inside the house has a theme in terms of the decorations, and the creativity of the designer stuns the senses. But beyond you can see the intricate woodwork, stained glass windows, parquet floors, crystal chandeliers, impressive fireplaces, and other hidden details. I really wish they’d reestablish the guided history tour including the third floor and the garage as that would interest me more. Here we are with Ann Meier and Pat Babcock.

     

You’re not allowed to take photos inside the mansion, but outdoors is fine. There’s a lovely covered porch to one side and a pool at the opposite end of the house. A meditation garden graces the rear past the garage and schoolhouse. The latter, converted into a guest cottage, serves as a tiny gift shop (cash only) where you can buy a guidebook on the mansion’s history along with Christmas ornaments and Stetson belts. It would be great if this shop expanded to take credit cards and included some Stetson hats!

 

All in all, this is a fascinating glimpse into history and Victorian architecture. From here, it’s a five-minute drive to historic downtown Deland with numerous shops and restaurants.  https://www.stetsonmansion.com/

 

 

 

Nehrling Gardens

Nehrling Gardens is a hidden gem in Gotha, located to the west of the greater Orlando metropolitan area. Dr. Henry Nehrling purchased forty acres in 1885 to perform horticultural research. Julian and Maggie Nally bought the property in 1935. After they died, developers purchased all but the remaining six acres. The Henry Nehrling Society took charge of grounds and the historic house in 2009. Nehrling Gardens is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Florida Heritage Landmark.

    

We came during their annual amaryllis festival. I have a black thumb so I didn’t care about the plants, which you could buy for $10 or so, but I love to stroll along shady paths at parks. This one didn’t disappoint. The mulched walking trails require diligence, but we watched our footing and did fine.

   

My attention was drawn to the historical house built in the late 1880s. We noticed how it had an inviting screened porch on stilts in back.

 

Vendors had set up shop to sell wares during this event, and musicians played near the entrance. I didn’t realize Gotha had originally been a German colony. That would explain the food truck at the park selling German cuisine.

If you walk all the way to the back and down a slight hill, you come upon Lake Nally.

The shady paths provide for a peaceful stroll. If you’re in the area, stop by to see this garden. It reminded me of Leu Gardens in Winter Park and Fairchild Gardens in Miami, albeit on a much smaller scale.

   

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Waterhouse Residence Museum

Built in 1884 for carpenter William H. Waterhouse, the Waterhouse Residence Museum at 820 Lake Lily Drive in Maitland, FL is available to the public for a peek into the late Victorian era. William and his wife, Sarah, had two children. Charles and Stella lived in the house after them, and soon Stella was left. She lived into her nineties and had no offspring of her own. It’s said her spirit inhabits her former bedroom, and she was happy when the curtains were opened at the window so she could look outside.

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I took a number of photos here but no orbs showed up. So whether or not this site is haunted is questionable, if you believe in such things. Our guide does, or so she led us to think. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is operated by the Maitland Historical Society. The grounds overlook Lake Lily.

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The house is decorated for Halloween in these ensuing photos. The front parlor is where they might have had a coffin viewing before a funeral. The sofa is called a courting couch because the young couple would sit at either end.

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The dining room table is set with lovely china. Note the hand in the center, and the skull inside a cage on the chest of drawers. The room even has a creepy doll. I really liked the lace curtains.

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Next we entered a sort of breezeway, which may have separated the kitchen from the main house. The house is constructed from pine, which is termite-resistant but susceptible to fire. This crank device was where you’d wash and wring out your clothes. That plunger-like device was called an agitator. Aren’t you glad we have washing machines today?

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Here’s the stove and an ice box next to our guide in the kitchen.

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Here’s the bedroom where Stella lived, sample clothing, the master bedroom, a desk with implements of the day. The framed wreath contains human hair. Victorian mourning customs (which you can read more about in my book, Died Blonde) involved preserving a hank of hair from the deceased in jewelry or other remembrances. More bedroom scenes and another parlor.

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Get tickets or see the hours here: http://artandhistory.org/plan-your-visit/tickets

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Grand Cayman – Pedro St. James

Grand Cayman – Pedro St. James

The entrance to this historic estate takes you through a gift shop. From here, we entered a theater and watched a multi-media presentation relating the history of the estate. It was quite interesting, especially the part where a daughter of the owner was killed during a lightning storm. She and her younger brother were fetching rain water in a bucket at the bottom of the stairs when she was struck and killed. The brother was knocked unconscious but survived. Thunder and flashing lights accompanied the tale. No ghost stories here, according to our local guide. Later fire destroyed much of the estate. It was reincarnated as a castle, and now has been restored to its original design.

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The original structure was built by slaves. It’s a beautiful place with covered porches, slate stone flooring, mahogany furnishings, and thick stone outer walls. Wood shutters shade the windows and keep the interior cool. Mosquito netting on the beds was essential.

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After viewing the building, we were led inside a café where we received tea and cakes. I liked the moist coconut cake better than the dense carrot cake and bread pudding.

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We headed back to the ship from here. By now it was two o’clock. The last tender left at three, so we peeked quickly inside the shops at the port and then departed the island.

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Next Port: Cozumel, Mexico

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Vizcaya

Vizcaya was built in the early 1900’s for James Deering. The mansion, located in Miami, is Italian Renaissance style. You can tour the house and gardens and lunch in a pleasant café adjacent to the gift shop.

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We began our stroll outside to take advantage of the cooler morning air. Surrounded by a lush tropical forest, the estate borders Biscayne Bay. We passed a swimming pool on the east side that’s partially under cover. Facing the water at the back are boat landings where guests arrived by boat at the property. This was actually the main entrance back in the day. A replica of a barge sits in the water to stem the tide. Note the little tea house gazebo in the distance.

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From here we entered the formal gardens via steps made from coral. Hedges, quaint grottos, and a maze of paths take you along this tranquil garden. Statuary draws attention as do fountains and secret little nooks.

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We headed to the house next and were informed photos were not allowed inside. On the ground floor, we viewed the library, living room, music room, reception rooms, open-air loggia facing the water, and a formal dining room with a serving pantry at its side. Tapestries, huge paintings, and silk panels decorated the walls with lots of gold trim and marble columns. Fancy chandeliers have been converted to electricity but still maintain their historical design.

Upstairs are the bedrooms, a breakfast room, and the kitchen—which always fascinates me in these historical homes. There were bathrooms as well. We didn’t get to see the servant’s quarters because they’ve mostly been converted into offices.

After getting our exercise climbing up and down stairs, some of which were narrow spiral staircases, we aimed for the gift shop and café. Here we ate a substantial lunch (self-service only) and then left to return home. It was wonderful to imagine what it must have been like living in such a big house. I’d call it Downton Abbey – Florida style, except Mr. Deering was a bachelor and his nieces inherited his property. They donated it to Miami-Dade County, which opened the house and grounds as a museum in 1953. http://www.vizcaya.org