Tour the Money Pit Mansion too expensive to restore

The John Dutton House is a Neo-Classical home that may be found nestled smack dab in the middle of Deland, Florida. John Wesley Dutton, a native of Georgia who made his wealth owning naval stores and lumber, was the man responsible for the construction of the massive mansion.

At the turn of the 20th century, citrus, turpentine, and lumber were Central Florida’s principal businesses. His corporate empire controlled a significant portion of the turpentine crop during this time.

The blueprints for the building were created in a Neo-Classical style by the architectural company of Cairns & Fitcher, and the construction of the building was managed by the local contractor Gus Lauman. In 1911, the home with an area of 8,000 square feet and a price tag of $25,000 was finally finished.

The big house has ceramic tile panels at the gable ends and on the roof, as well as full-height Corinthian columns that support tiered verandas and have scroll brackets, modillions, and dentils along the frieze. The John Dutton House is one of the few remaining homes in Volusia County that was built in the early twentieth century and features elaborate decorations.

In 1924, Dutton and his family moved into a house that had formerly belonged to the vice president of a local bank. In the 1940s, the house was put up for sale and eventually sold to become the Griffith-Stith Funeral Parlor. Before being transformed into a conference hall, it continued to function as a funeral parlor for close to twenty years. Not long after that, it was put up for sale and eventually turned into flats.

In the later years of the building’s life, it was repurposed as the Colonial Guest Home, a lodging establishment that catered to travelers by providing rental rooms; eventually, it was transformed into the Colonial Arms Apartments. In 1990, the bank exercised its right to foreclose on the property and put it up for sale at a price of $129,000. The bank was unable to find a buyer for the property, so they submitted an application for a demolition permit, which was granted by the Deland City Commission.

After making an offer of $90,000 to the bank in 1992, a couple was able to prevent the imminent demolition of the house. The home sustained significant termite damage and would require repairs costing at least $225,000 to bring it back to its previous condition. The new owners of the home estimated that the renovation would take five years to complete and established a charitable organization to assist in the process.

The mansion was supposed to be brought back to its full glory so that it may be used by the public either as a museum or as a location for weddings. Unluckily, the new owner had an illness and asked the city to take over the responsibility of restoring the building. The local government came to the conclusion that it would be in the city’s best interest for a nonprofit organization that had been specifically founded for the Dutton House to resume restoration work.

The charitable organization known as Historic Deland, Inc. was founded in the year 1995. This board was in a position to submit grant applications to the state and was successful in having several of those applications funded, which enabled the restoration work to proceed. The number of people serving on the board eventually decreased, and in 2005, a new board was installed.

The new board decided to alter the name of the organization to Dutton House Inc. to avoid any conflict with the Historical Society of Deland, and they were successful in obtaining two funds, which will allow the restoration work to be carried out until the year 2008. Because of the economic downturn, the state did not provide any funding in 2008, nor did it do so in the three years that followed. The mansion has been under renovation for close to 25 years, and to this day it is not complete.

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