I joined a group from the American Association of University women for a tour of The Howey Mansion at Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida about an hour drive from The Villages, where I live. We gathered at the Eisenhower Recreation Center, joined together in a caravan and met at La Hacienda Mission Hills for lunch. Afterward, we drove a few miles down Citrus Avenue to tour The Howey Mansion. I found this outing and the people with whom I shared the experience to be most enjoyable. Especially since we also stopped at the Yalaha Bakery afterward for delicious cakes, pie, and cookies.
Our tour guide at the mansion explained the history of this house, it’s construction, and renovation, as well as stories of families who have lived in it beginning with its original owner, John Howey,
Born on January 19, 1876 in Odin, Illinois, John sold insurance at sixteen years old and by 1900 he began developing land and towns for the railroad in Oklahoma. He opened the Howey Motor Car Company in Kansas City in 1903. After making only seven Howey Motor Cars the business closed. He bought a large tract of land in Mexico, but left due to the Mexican Revolution.
Being an enterprising young man, he found Winter Haven in Florida, where he perfected his citrus farming and sales program. He began buying land for $8 to $10 per acre and planted each acre with 48 citrus trees. Then he sold those acres for $800 to $2000 per acre. He amassed his fortune.
In 1927, construction of his home—a 20-room, 7,200 square foot mansion at the cost of $250,000, around $3.2 million after inflation—was completed. He, his wife Mary, and their two adopted daughters, Mary and Lois lived in this home. John died in 1938. His daughter, Lois, died the year after. His wife, Mary, lived in the mansion until her death in 1981.
The home was sold to different people, but lay abandoned for almost a decade before life was brought back into the building. This is a must see stop for anyone interested in the history of this area, or construction during the boom years of the 1920s.
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