Abandoned Gothic Revival Pink House in Florida

This charming old house in Florida looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale with its lovely pink color and whimsical design. But there’s more to it than just its appearance. It has a rich history tied to the founding of Pomona Park, the lakeside community it calls home. Over the years, it’s been passed down through several families who were important figures in the area. However, now that it’s been empty for a while, locals are worried about what might happen to this beloved landmark.

Pomona Park, named after the Roman Goddess of fruit trees, has a long history dating back to 1894 when it was officially established as a town. It was famous for its citrus fruits, vineyards, and farming, as well as its abundant pine trees. Even before it became a town, settlers, many of them Civil War veterans from both sides, arrived in the area and began cultivating citrus groves, which eventually became synonymous with Pomona Park.

Holmes Erwin, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, was born in 1838 and served as a lieutenant in the 3rd Maryland Artillery during the Civil War. Following the war’s end, he made his home in Florida, settling down in Pomona Park. It’s believed that he constructed this charming residence sometime in the 1880s, likely around 1886. In 1888, Holmes married Mary Emily Erwin, and together they lived in the house with their household staff, James and Mary Bradly. Holmes was also active in local politics, serving as a county road commissioner in 1888.

The house itself is an architectural gem, boasting a Gothic Revival style with intricate gingerbread detailing. Spanning over 3,000 square feet, it features charming Juliette balconies on its north and south sides, along with ornate Chinese Chippendale railings on the porches, lending it an enchanting air. Although it stands out in its current pink hue, this wasn’t its original color. Inside, the home holds some rare treasures for Florida, including four fireplaces, a root cellar, and exceptional cypress woodwork, indicating the work of highly skilled craftsmen.

While it was common for homes in Florida to be built on brick piers to withstand the region’s frequent flooding, the height of this particular house was intentionally raised higher than usual. This adjustment was made to account for the possibility of rising waters from Lake Broward, as the house originally had a picturesque view of the lake. However, over time, the water levels have significantly decreased, altering the lake’s edge, which once ran directly across the road.

In addition to his active role in the community, Holmes Erwin was also an accomplished agriculturalist. He cultivated citrus and grape groves on his property along the shores of Lake Broward in Pomona Park.

Following Mr. Erwin’s passing, Adolph Linke and his wife, Pauline Telzer Linke, acquired the property, including the house and vineyards situated by Lake Broward. Both Adolph and Pauline hailed from Arnsdorf, Austria, where they tied the knot in 1901. Shortly after their marriage, they immigrated to the United States, initially settling in Pennsylvania. There, Adolph practiced his craft as a skilled artisan, specializing in crafting intricately decorated table glassware, a highly esteemed trade at the time. After a successful career in Pennsylvania, they retired to Florida, making their home in Pomona Park.

Mr. Linke carried on the tradition established by his predecessor, producing wines known as “Lady Wine” from oranges, grapes, peaches, strawberries, and other fruits in the wine cellar of this house. In 1926, he further contributed to the community by purchasing a cypress water tank for the property, which served as Pomona Park’s first water works. The Erwin-Linke-Shirley home, captured in a photo whose date is unknown, features prominently in the left side of the image, showcasing the water tower installed by Adolph Linke in 1926.

After Mrs. Linke’s passing in 1943, Adolph sold the house to Mrs. Fern Maxon Cook and her daughter, Marjorie Cook Jacobs. In 1987, Mrs. Jacobs passed it on to James and Annette Shirley, who resided in the house until Mr. Shirley’s death in 2017. While the home remains in the hands of descendants, it has stood empty since that time.

The prolonged vacancy of the house raised concerns among local and state historians about its future. In 2021, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation listed the house on the Places in Peril List to draw attention to its historical significance. Subsequently, the house faced foreclosure, and in January 2023, it was put up for public auction. New owners acquired the property shortly afterward, though their intentions for the house remain unclear. It is my sincere hope that this historic home, with its ties to the founding era of Pomona Park, will ultimately be preserved for future generations to appreciate.

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