Arsonists Burn Down 1871 House
By Margaret Foster | From Preservation | Sept. 5, 2007
A charred wood frame is all that's left of one of the oldest houses in Florida. Despite the city of Tavares' plans to restore the dilapidated house as a museum, arsonists jumped a security fence and torched the 1871 Woodlea House.
"It's kind of sad," says Bob Grenier, president of the Taveres Historical Society, who convinced housing developers to donate the house to the city, which paid $50,000 to move it in 2005. "There are throngs of people who absolutely loved this house."
Today the city council decided to build a replica of the Woodlea House. "It's not the same, but it's something," Grenier says.
No one was hurt in the Sept. 3 fire. The state fire marshall's office have arrested two suspects, who had bragged about burning down what they called a "haunted" house.
During an archaeological survey scheduled for this Saturday, workers will catalog the remnants of the house and remove its brick foundation and fireplace to use in the new building. "We will photograph, document, see what's salvageable, and then move off the property to a holding spot what is still salvageable," Grenier says.
Civil War Capt. Melton Haynes, a soldier and state politician, built the two-story house on Lake Harris. State historians credit Haynes with introducing the sweet orange tree to central Florida.
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