Howey mansion

Howey mansion DEFAULT

Howey Mansion

Howey Mansion

William John Howey was born on January 19, 1876, in Odin, Illinois. He began selling insurance at 16-years-old and by 1900 began developing land and towns for the railroad in Oklahoma. He opened the Howey Motor Car Company in Kansas City in 1903, and after making seven Howey Cars, closed his business. At age 31, he bought a large tract of land in Mexico and tried his hand at selling pineapple plantations, but the Mexican Revolution forced him out.

It was in 1908 when Howey found himself in Winter Haven, Florida where he perfected his citrus farming and sales program techniques. He believed that if he took raw land and controlled its development into mature citrus groves, he could guarantee investors a successful enterprise while making a profit on each step of citrus cultivation. In 1914, he began buying land for $8 to $10 per acre and later sold them at $800 to $2000 per acre, cleared and planted with 48 citrus trees per acre. Howey also offered a no-risk guarantee: if the buyer signed up for Howey’s company to maintain the land as well but the land didn’t turn a profit with a set amount of time, he would buy back the land for the original cost plus interest.

Howey Mansion | Photo © 2012 Bullet,

Buyers flocked to the town, many considering him Florida’s greatest citrus developer. In 1917, he built the “Bougainvillea”, a two-story frame boarding house across from the future site of the Howey Mansion, to house the visiting investors. By 1920, he had amassed nearly 60,000 raw acres for his “City Inevitable,” but the Bougainvillea burned to the ground that year. He set up temporary housing in “Tent City” on the same location and opened the Floridan Hotel at the south end of town in 1924, and it soon became the social hub of the community. The Floridan Hotel would later become a victim to “the bomb”, an economic boom that occurred in parts of Florida where movie production companies would pay cities to blow up buildings for their movies; it was blown up in 1994 for Hulk Hogan’s “Thunder in Paradise”.

The Florida Land Boom tripled Howey’s enterprises and the “Town of Howey” was incorporated on May 8, 1925. In 1927, the name was officially changed to Howey-in-the-Hills to reflect the location of the town in an area of rolling hills which he dubbed “The Florida Alps”.

In 1927, the construction of his mansion was completed. Designed by Katharine Cotheal Budd, a pioneering woman architect from New York, the 20-room, 7,200 square foot mansion was built at the cost of $250,000, around $3.2 million after inflation. To celebrate, he hosted the entire New York Civic Opera Company of 100 artists, drawing a crowd of 15,000 arriving in 4,000 automobiles to the free outdoor performance.

Howey Mansion | Photo © 2012 Bullet,

Howey died of a heart attack on June 7, 1938, at the age of 62. His wife, Mary Grace Hastings, lived in the Howey mansion until her death on December 18, 1981, and was laid to rest in the family mausoleum on the mansion grounds along with William and their daughter Lois. Soon after, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Marvel Zona purchased the home in 1984 for around $400,000 along with her husband Jack. In 1996, the property was in trust to Marvel’s name. With her husband in failing health, she took a $347,000 reverse mortgage which would pay her a fixed income for life. Her husband passed away in 2000.

Over the years, Zona opened the mansion to public tours with the profits going to charity. In 2003, she approached Lake County officials with the idea of turning the home into a museum, but it was not eligible for state historic preservation grant funds due to the fact that it was privately owned.

Howey Mansion | Photo © 2012 Bullet,

In 2005, Zona was approached by would-be buyers who convinced her that the reverse mortgage was a bad deal. If she took a $1.2 million loan, leverage by a mansion she owned in North Carolina, she could pay off the mortgage and would make the mansion easier to sell. In 2006, she agreed to a $1.2 million adjustable-rate mortgage with a starting interest rate of 1.25%. The rate would later rise monthly to a rate of 9.95%. Though her income was a mere $1000 per month, her monthly payments were $3,200 for the next 30 years. Within two years, she lost the mansion the North Carolina and the Howey mansion was put into foreclosure.

Many potential buyers have made offers on the home but none can really afford it. Zona’s lawyer suspects the parties who have the house tied up would settle for no less than $2 million. In addition, estimates for the repairs to the house along with the installation of central air conditioning would cost an additional $1.5 million.

Police have been called to the property multiple times whenever residents suspect vandals of entering the home, but so far most of the people caught there have been photographers or history buffs looking to get a glimpse of the mansion. On July 13, 2015, Marvel Zona passed away at the age of 97. That same year, Nationstar Mortgage of Dallas became the new owner of the property.

Despite her death and a new owner, the mansion was still entangled in legal issues until it was put up on the market in the spring of 2017. There was a lot of interest with over ten offers according to the realtor. Just nine days after being on the market, it was sold to Brad Cowherd, who operates Florida Oranges Land Co. along with his brother, and also owns Infusion Tea cafe, the Doghouse restaurant and Soda Fountain ice-cream shop in Orlando. Cowherd paid $630,000, despite the home being listed for $480,000.

Cowherd invested more than half a million dollars into the restoration of the property and in less than a year, the mansion officially opened to the public in May 2018 as a venue for special events, weddings, and private parties. Historic tours of the property can also be purchased through their website, Below, you can view the photos I took there during a private tour of the property in the middle of restoration work.

Despite it being restored and open to the public, in the early morning of June 6, 2018, four people broke into the mansion but quickly left after the security alarm went off. According to police, they caused minor damages and left behind a steak knife.

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The Howey Mansion – Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida

The Howey Mansion in Florida might not be as well-known as other mansions from the 1900’s era. It might not be as famous, big, or opulent, but it is packed with a rich history, a fascinating story, and it’s been renovated to capture the original luster.

A massive fan of mansions, palaces, and stately homes, visiting the Howey Mansion has been on my Florida bucket list for a while. I was eying it up when it was derelict. And while the renovated version is delightful, I wish I had taken a chance to see it before the renovation. On January 27, 1983, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The Howey Mansion is located at 1001 Citrus Ave. Howey in the Hills, Florida.

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History of The Howey Mansion

I’m going to give you the abbreviated version. If I tell you everything, the tour won’t be as interesting for you.

This 20-room mansion was built in 1925 by William J. Howey, a citrus fruit innovator, being one of the first to ship fruit to England. Howey died of a heart attack in 1938 at the age of 62. Mary Grace Hastings (his wife) continued to live here until she died in 1981. Both Howie and his wife lay at rest on-site in a mausoleum.

The next owner was Marvel Zona, who acquired it in 1984. Long story short, Zona got conned into a reverse mortgage to get funds to assist her sick husband. This resulted in her not being able to pay the mortgage or maintain the mansion.  Zona was foreclosed on in 2008, and the estate started its journey as an abandoned building.

Nine years later, in 2017, the property was auctioned and sold to Brad Cowherd, who operates Florida Oranges Land Co. Cowherd paid $630,000 and has invested over a million dollars in restorations.

In May 2018, the Howey Mansion was opened to the public as a venue for special events, weddings, and private parties. You can also tour the mansion, assuming there is not an event taking place.

Inside The Howey Mansion

The mansion is a 7188 square foot, 20 room Mediterranean Revival Style home. None of the rooms feature the original furniture because Marvel Zona sold it while in financial distress. The furniture inside is true to the era, and a bonus is you can touch and feel everything given; it’s not a historical artifact. You can even open every door and peek at what’s behind them, an unusual perk that is not common in historic properties.

The Main Ball Room

Howey Mansion
Howey Mansion
Howey Mansion

The Stair Case

Howey Mansion
Howey Mansion
Howey Mansion

Dining Room, Office, and Library

Howey Mansion
Howey Mansion
Howey Mansion

The Hidden Basement

This was my personal favorite. In 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act enforcing prohibition under the 18th Amendment. The ban on alcohol was in place until 1933. This did not stop the Howey’s! They installed a secretly hidden basement to stash all of their alcohol. Talk about forward-thinking!

The first picture is the hidden lock in the library that opens the secret door to the basement.

There are many other rooms to explore, like the kitchen, the sunroom, the bedrooms, and the bathrooms. I will not share all the photos with you; I want to leave some surprises for you. Go check out the mansion yourself. Above is only a snapshot of what you will explore. The bedrooms hold some surprises, as do the upper balconies.

Video of Inside The Howey Mansion

Outside The Howey Mansion

Originally, the mansion sat on 15 acres. Much like the furniture, most of the acreage was sold off by Marvel Zona. The Howey Mansion now sits on 4 acres of land. It surprised me that the mansion is not tucked away in a remote or hidden location. It’s in a residential area. There are houses on the main street, and a busy road runs directly behind the house. If you are facing the home front, it appears to be a vast estate. Once inside, you can see there is little land at the rear. Regardless, it’s still an impressive estate.

Howey Mansion
Howey Mansion
Howey Mansion

Video of Outside The Howey Mansion

Hotels Near The Howey Mansion

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns the Howey mansion?

Brad and Clay Cowherd, Orlando real estate investors and entrepreneurs, own the Howey Mansion.

Is the Howey mansion haunted?

No, it acquired this accolade as a result of it being abandoned for so long.

Why is it called Howey in the Hills?

In 1927, the name was officially changed to Howey-in-the-Hills to reflect the beautiful rolling hills and sparkling lakes, dubbed “the Florida Alps.” Mr. Howey envisioned a great citrus empire with the Town as its commercial and shipping hub. Source: The History of Howey-in-the-Hills

What county is Howey in the Hills?

Howey in the Hills is located in Lake County, Florida.

What is the zip code for Howey in the Hills, Florida?


When is The Howey Mansion open?

Tuesday through Saturday when there isn’t a private event.


What You Need to Know

  • Tours run Tuesday through Saturday at 10 am or 2 pm when there isn’t a private event.
  • Purchase your tickets online before you go to make sure there is availability.
  • The tour lasts an hour and costs $20.
  • Photographs and videos can be taken while on tour.
  • You stay on-site at The Howey Mansion Guest Cottage.
  • It’s possible to rent out the entire mansion and sleep inside the mansion vs. the guest cottage.
  • You can host a private function here, such as a wedding or a gala.
  • The rates for hosting events are beyond reasonable. For example, weddings start at around $4,000.
  • The mausoleum is not open to the public.

Closing Thoughts

If you are remotely interested in architecture or history, the Howey Mansion tour is something you will enjoy. The tour explains the entire history of the property, tells you all about the families that have owned it while also sharing all about the city of Howey In The Hills. I loved this tour. It’s excellent value for money, and it’s an alternative to the standard Floridian attractions.

And, while you are in the area, check out one of Florida’s finest wineries, Lakeridge Winery. You can combine a visit to the Howey Mansion with Lakeridge Winery.

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The Howey Mansion

The breathtaking grounds, lush gardens and antique décor of The Howey Mansion make this highly-anticipated restoration Central Florida’s most sought-after wedding venue. As one of Howey-in-the-Hills’ historical treasures, the home has a rich history for hosting lavish parties with famous guests, from U.S. presidents to Hollywood starlets. The sense of Southern charm and sophistication inspire classic romance, making it a worthy location for a celebration of love. Historical yet welcoming, this artistic mansion invites you in with towering palm trees, stunning wood finishes and fireplaces, and abundant detailed chandeliers. Packages that range from opulent to intimate let you tailor your experience to match your vision, whether you want a grand affair or a romantic elopement. We offer a range of inclusive designer details that make planning your big day as easy and stress-free as possible. Custom quotes are based on day, season, and guest count.


The Howey Mansion Reviews

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Behind The Scenes Transformation of The Howey Mansion's cellar and library

The Howey Mansion

The Howey Mansion is a historic wedding venue located in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida. Featuring a breathtaking property, lush gardens, and antique decor, this is one of the most sought-after wedding venues in the central Florida area. While many historic mansions can be overwhelming, this space is designed to welcome everyone that walks through its doors. With a mix of elegance and charm, The Howey Mansion will enhance your special day! Facilities and Capacity The Mansion is known for its Mediterranean style which creates the perfect romantic, yet fun setting for you and your guests to eat, drink and dance the night away! Just as some quick references about the Mansion, we are a primarily outdoor venue, utilizing both indoor and outdoor spaces for our events. Our indoor ballroom can seat 80 guests with room for a dance floor. For larger events or when the weather is fine, most couples take advantage of the beautiful Courtyard for dinner and use the ballroom for cocktail hour and dancing after dinner. Services Offered Not only is The Howey Mansion a breathtaking wedding venue, but it is also made up of a world-class staff who are trained to exceed all of their clients’ expectations. This historic building is available to host a variety of your wedding-related events, including your wedding ceremony, reception, bridal shower, engagement party, elopement, and/or rehearsal dinner! The Howey Mansion offers its couples the following services: Cleanup Get-ready rooms Liability insurance Pet friendly Preferred vendors only Setup WiFi History This 20-room mansion was built in 1925 by the community’s founder, William J. Howey. Five years prior, Howey purchased 60,000 acres in central Florida and founded the town that bore his name. Designed by Katherine Cotheal Budd, the home has a Mediterranean Revival vibe to it. Throughout the years, this lavish home has hosted numerous parties with famous guests that include U.S. presidents and Hollywood superstars.


Mansion howey

Howey Mansion

An architectural gem in the Lake County community of Howey-in-the-Hills attests to Ernest Hemingway’s oft-quoted remark “The rich are different.”  To wander through the 20 room mansion built in 1925 by the community’s founder, William J. Howey, and stroll over the 15 acres surrounding, brings a nostalgic feeling of how “Once upon a time--.”

William J. Howey purchased 60,000 acres in Lake County in 1916, founding the town that was to bear his name four years later.  Following his previous formula for success practice in Polk County, he planted citrus on the majority of his newly acquired acreage. 

Unlike many purchasers of Florida property in the ensuing boom years, Mr. Howey was not a speculator, but a land promoter who used the fledgling citrus industry of Central Florida as his economic base.  Therefore, in 1924, he and his wife, Mary Hastings Howey, completed the plans for their permanent home in Howey-in-the-Hills, and by the end of 1925, the show place was finished, furnished and occupied. 

The architect was Katherine Cotheal Budd who during World War I had designed temporary lodgings for women who visited male relatives at military training camps.  The “hostess home” idea was a new concept for that time, and Budd is credited for giving 72 lodgings a homelike atmosphere.  The Howey home is possibly the only existing example of her work.

Designed in Mediterranean Revival style, the house is set back on a wide lawn approached through wrought iron gates and a lengthy horseshoe-shaped drive.  The time-mellowed rose stucco walls are almost completely covered with glossy leafed creeping figine.  The roof is red Spanish tile.  The entrance features an elaborate bas-relief frontispiece which extends two full stories and incorporates two openings – an arched double doorway topped by a square casement window.  The arched doorway has screened double doors surmounted by a fanlight of screen and ornamental grille work.

A second doorway, opening directly into the foyer, has a magnificent semicircular fanlight inset with a peacock plumage design of multi-colored stained glass with panels of diamond-patterned stained glass outlining the sides of the door.  Much of the woodwork on the first floor is pecky cypress, including the massive front door.

The foyer with curved walls rising to the second story is dominated by a wide graceful curving stone stairway with a wrought iron banister.  The wall surface of the foyer and lower hall is of Florentine beige marble squares so expertly joined that on first inspection they appear to be of one mass.  The Austrian artisan, who compounded and poured the wall surface mixture right in the foyer, did so to complete secrecy, banning all other workmen from the house and locking doors.  

Three immense fireplaces, a ballroom-size drawing room, massive beamed ceilings and the servant call-bell phone system are not surprising architectural styles and convenience refinements to see in a house of this size.  The unexpected is what delights the eye and creates visual images.  For instance, a cozy breakfast room is built in the tower on the backside of the mansion, entered midway up the main staircase and serviced by an enclosed stairway and dumb waiter from the butler’s pantry on the first floor.

The library, situated directly below the breakfast room, is also of small dimension.  The wall space is divided between built-in shelves and arched windows which face a grass carpeted courtyard with a fountain-fed lily pool.  The de rigueur hidden passageway, so popular in large older homes emanates from behind a sliding bookshelf panel in the library.  The doorway that the concealed latch opens is located outside the library, lending even more intrigue to the basement room that may have served as a liquor cache during Prohibition times.  Whatever it contained must have been considered valuable, as the door is a fireproof, tumbler locked bank vault type.  That it was a strong house as well as a beautiful one there is no doubt.  Some of the inner walls measure over a foot thick and both wood and stone floors are tight and smooth; even today, the heavy doors swing silently and close snugly.

Much of the furnishings were purchased from Marshall Fields in Chicago at the time of the home’s completion.  Interior designer Earl Coleman, who was a decorator for the Ringling mansion in Sarasota, assisted selection furniture and lighting fixtures for the Howey house.  An example of Coleman’s eye for décor are small wall sconces, each set unique to its particular room, being used throughout the five bedrooms in lieu of ceiling lights.

An innovator in the citrus industry, Howey was one of the first growers to ship fruit to England from Florida.  His home is located across the road (Rt. 19) from the golf course (now Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort) and his candidacy for Governor on the Republican ticket in 1932, led to various notable visitors to the Howey home.  Among them were Lord Bathhurst of England, H.B. McNeal, publisher of Golfer’s Magazine, golf master Chick Evans, Kansas Governor Alfred Landon, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Phillip’s of petroleum fame and President Calvin Coolidge who was guest of honor at an all-male dinner party in February 1930.

Within the 15-acre grounds, referred to as “The Park,” are many varieties of botanical plants and lush shrubbery.  Located on the grounds is a simple Georgian marble mausoleum where William J. Howey (1938), a daughter, Lois Valerie Howey (1941), and Mary Hastings Howey (1981) are buried.  A surviving daughter, Mrs. George E. Smith, Jr., resides in Eustis.

“The Park was the scene of an open air concert performed by the New York Civic Opera Company on March 6, 1927.  Those attending, estimated at 16,000, arrived in 4,000 automobiles.  An area newspaper reported “In all Florida history…never has there been anyone who has attempted to bring a musical company of such prominence to give a concert at his own expense so that the people could have the opportunity of hearing some of the finest operatic stars … impossible had it not been for the generosity and thoughtfulness of W.J. Howey …” From the same article it was noted, “…The greatest applause was when W.J. Howey was introduced, the applause ringing and ringing until it echoed from miles around.”

The time for a show place mansion such as the Howey House may be past; the lifestyle it encompassed, bypassed by jet-paced modernity, and yet it should remain to remind us that “Once upon a time…”

- Taken from the Central Florida Scene, pages 25-26, August 1982.

Behind The Scenes Transformation of The Howey Mansion's cellar and library

Howey Mansion

United States historic place

The Howey Mansion is a historic home in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, United States. It is located at 1001 North Citrus Avenue, Howey in the Hills, Florida. The mansion is a 7188 square foot, 20 room Mediterranean Revival Style home.

Howey Mansion is named after William John Howey, who founded Howey in the Hills.

The house was designed by architect Katharine Cotheal Budd from 1925 to 1927.[2] On January 27, 1983, it was added to the U.S.National Register of Historic Places.

On April 12, 2017, the house was listed for sale at $480,000.[3] It reportedly attracted widespread attention, with prospective buyers traveling hundreds of miles to see the home. More than 10 offers[4] were made on the home after just 9 days on the market.

The new owners,[5] Brad and Clay Cowherd, Orlando real estate investors and entrepreneurs, have made progress on a period-accurate restoration of the house. It will be a venue for weddings and events.[6]


External links[edit]

Media related to Howey House at Wikimedia Commons


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