Deep in the heart of Deland, Florida sits a Neo-classical mansion known as the John Dutton House. The enormous home was built by John Wesley Dutton, a Georgia native, who made his fortune owning naval stores and lumber. His business empire controlled much of the turpentine harvest at the turn of the 20th century when citrus, turpentine, and lumber were Central Florida’s primary industries.
The architectural firm of Cairns & Fitcher drafted the plans in a Neo-Classical genre and local contractor Gus Lauman supervised its construction. The 8,000-square-foot mansion was completed in 1911 at a cost of $25,000. The large home features full-height Corinthian columns that supported tiered verandas with scroll brackets, modillions, and dentils along the frieze and ceramic tile panels in the gable ends and the on the roof. The John Dutton House is one of the last of Volusia County’s most heavily ornamented early twentieth-century residences.
In 1924, Dutton and his family traded homes with the vice president of a local bank. The house was sold in the 1940s and converted into the Griffith-Stith Funeral Parlor. It remained a funeral home for almost 20 years before being converted into a meeting hall. Soon after it was sold and renovated into apartments. In its later years, the property was converted into the Colonial Guest Home which rented rooms to tourists before being converted into the Colonial Arms Apartments. The bank foreclosed on the property in 1990 and placed it for sale for $129,000. Without a buyer, the bank applied for a demolition permit which was approved by the Deland City Commission.
In 1992, the house was saved from impending demolition after a couple offered the bank $90,000. The house suffered from extensive termite damage and would require $225,000 or more in renovations. The new owners estimated the restoration to take five years and created a nonprofit organization to help restore the house. The goal was to return the house to its original charm and allow opening it to the public as a museum or wedding venue. Unfortunately, the new owner fell ill and asked the city to take over the restoration effort. The city felt it would be better served if a nonprofit specifically established for the Dutton House resumed restoration.
In 1995, the nonprofit Historic Deland Inc. was established. This board was able to apply for and did receive several grants through the state that allowed for the restoration to continue. Over time the board diminished and a new board was established in 2005. The new board changed the name to Dutton House Inc. to reduce confusion with the Historical Society of Deland and was awarded two grants allowing restoration to continue until 2008. Due to the recession, no funds were allocated by the state in 2008 or the following three years after. Now, almost 25 years since restoration began, the house remains unfinished.
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