A concept of organic architecture, this unique building sticks out among the warehouses and apartment complexes of Hialeah.
Tied up in a string of legal issues, a historic mansion built by the town's founder sits vacant.
Every month, we take a select number of photos from the AbandonedFL Flickr group and showcase here.
This month, we say goodbye to Splendid China, the well-known defunct theme park in Kissimmee, as it’s in the process of demolition to make way for condos. sfldp gives us a look at the park in it’s final days.
In 1967, architect Chayo Frank was tasked with designing an office building for his father’s architectural woodworking and store fixture manufacturing business, Amertec-Granada Inc. With the use of sprayed concrete construction, he was able to have his design plan realized which involved a combination free-form aesthetics; parts of the building were completely free-form such as the water flumes on the exterior while curved rebars were used to form the large geometric shapes.
Chayo Frank had a love for nature and while the building was being painted, he began developing an idea. He wanted his design to transcend architecture as a building and become what he called, an “organic entity” which involved a combination of all aspects of design to resemble an object of nature. To achieve this, he used metallic paints that enabled sunlight to reflect off the textures on the exterior of the building, giving it a more life-like quality to it.
His father’s business operated until it was sold in 2002. Sometime in the years prior, the building was painted white. Today the building and the connecting warehouses are owned by a produce company and is used as storage. Recently, it’s come to my knowledge that the building had been repainted which I will post as soon as I have an updated photo, so someone atleast still cares about the building.
Year Taken: 2011
The photos below are from the architect’s website, chayofrank.com. Click the link if you’d like to see more photos of the building during it’s heyday.
Chayo Frank – Organic Sculptures, Freeform Architecture, and Aesthetic Concepts
Photo(Bullet, 2013): Since the last time I visited the stadium, it has gone from bad to worse.
Two years ago, I wrote about the Marine Marine Stadium, abandoned by the city of Miami after they condemned the stadium as unsafe, though that was later proved false after further inspections and was most likely abandoned for the public’s lack of interest in the venue. A white elephant of sorts, no one was willing to put in millions of dollars to restore it and risk making no money out of it. In the summer of 2007, the city contracted a plan to demolish the structure which caused an immediate reaction from individuals in the public. The following February, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium was established.
Since then, they have made a lot of progress towards the restoration of the stadium but time is running out. They have estimated it will cost around $37 million, way more than what I had wrote two years ago, but have raised $10 million so far. Per an agreement they’ve made with the city, they have until May 2014 to come up with the rest.
Photo(Bullet, 2013): Pictured on the left is Jorge Hernandez, co-founder of Friends and Vice-Chair on the National Trust Board. To his right i Hilario Candela, co-founder of Friends an the architect who designed the stadium.
Last week, I was invited on an off-limits tour of the stadium, part of a series of events the National Trust of Historic Preservation is holding to bring awareness to endangered structure. Among the attendees there were Don Worth and Jorge Hernandez, co-founders of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium as well as Hilario Candela, co-founder and the architect who designed the stadium back in 1963.
They went on to explain they’re aspirations and the challenges they face in restoring the stadium. Throughout the years after it’s abandonment, part of the public have accepted the stadium in a variety of ways, from photographers and artists to skateboarders and free runners. It’s wished to be kept that way, something for the general public to come and enjoy without having to pay an extreme amount such as the American Airlines Arena, along with bringing back events such as powerboat racing and rowing competitions.
Though they have the public on their side, including Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, there are some who wish for the stadium to be razed and replaced with a hotel or a condominium. One can hope it doesn’t come to that.
Photo(Bullet, 2013): Pictured is Don Worth, preservationist and co-founder of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium.
If you wish to learn more about he stadium and the progress they’ve made so far, you can visit http://www.savingplaces.org/treasures/miami-marine-stadium.
Miami Marine Stadium History
Photo(Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida; Florida Memory, 192-): A shot of the mansion before it became covered in vines.
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.
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”.
Photo(Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida; Florida Memory, 1938): Constructed in 1924, it later became Howey Academy in 1976 and then demolished in 1994.
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, construction of his mansion was completed; a 20-room, 7,200 square foot mansion 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 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.
Photo(Nomeus – Flurbex.com): The mausoleum which sits somewhere on the 15-acre property.
Today, the mansion sits vacant and the story of how it came to be is one too common. The current owner, Marvel Zona, purchased the home in 1984 for around $400,000 along with her husband Jack. In 1996, the propert 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 with the property on the National Register of Historic Places, it was not eligible for state historic preservation funds and was considered too costly to renovate.
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. Resisting the harsh Florida weather and after few cracks and broken windows, the mansion still seems solid. But how much longer can it stand? When will someone take the initiative to save this piece of history?
Photo(Nomeus – Flurbex.com): Repairs to the house estimate to around $1.5 million.
Howey in the Hills website – History of the mansion and the town’s founder
Howey in the Hills website – History of the town’s founder and the mansion’s first owner
In general, tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into exploring?
While I was earning my history degree at the University of Florida (Go Gators!) I stumbled upon a set of photographs from the catacombs under Paris on an urbex site. I had never heard of urbex before and was immediately intrigued to know more. I followed the boards for the next few years, admiring the work of many talented photographers/explorers. 3 years later, I found myself in graphic design school and was required to buy a DSLR. I learned how to use my camera and realized a career in graphic design wasn’t for me. It was at this point that photography took over my life. This wonderful hobby-turned-something-else allows me to express my inner history nerd through photography. I am also fortunate in that I am content to drive long distances trying to get lost [I’ve realized not everyone is]. This is the only way I’ll ever truly ‘explore’ anything.
You’ve explored around Alabama, Georgia and Florida quite a bit. Which place/explore sticks out the most in your mind?
Don’t forget South Carolina and Louisiana
As any explorer will tell you I’m sure, every location is special or memorable for its own reasons. So I guess I’ll tell you about the most impactful on my growth as a photographer/explorer in this niche.
I was able to visit a long-abandoned asylum in South Carolina, which was my first medical facility. This was the oldest building I have explored and probably the most historically significant as well. It was built throughout the Civil War and is an incredible glimpse into how society viewed mental health and the treatment of it at the time. It was also the most dangerous explore I have been on to date. And I went alone. Although nearly every place I see is in a ruinous state, this one was particularly painful to take in because of its grandeur.
As a photographer, I learned a lot about shooting in low light and preparing better for a shoot (extra batteries are crucial!). As an explorer, I made a handful of mistakes I won’t be making again and figured out the value of doing as much research beforehand as possible. This place was also the catalyst for me to get involved with historic preservation.
In your blog, last year you explored abandonments and slowly moved towards documenting historic homes/buildings, vacant or not. Why the change of pace?
Although my main focus remains on abandoned or forgotten things, I realized that first and foremost, I am interested in the history of these places, not just the photos of them. I recognize that images of decay are very compelling but I think it is important to highlight examples every now and then of an old home, school, church, etc that HAS been restored. I was constantly lamenting over the decay of beautiful places and then realized that it was almost hypocritical of me to ONLY focus on the ruined structures that I find in my explorations.
And because there is a lot more rural abandonment in my area than urban, my focus has definitely shifted somewhat leading me to a lot of historic homesteads, schools, etc. In Florida, rural history is better preserved because closer to the big cities, land is more valuable and often cleared for commercial projects. Out in the country, these places are left to stand much longer. I always feel much more connected to historic community sites like these rather than blown-out, graffiti covered gas stations or strip malls anyway!
With the low cost of land and the rise in the number of developments here in Florida, restorations and renovations are scarce or end up failing. How do you feel about that?
As you can imagine, this is incredibly bothersome to me. I feel like it is a reflection on our values (or lack of) as a group of people. For the life of me, I cannot wrap my head around why a community would prefer a generic, characterless strip mall over a historic structure which could be repurposed with a little bit of ingenuity. Of course, it is naïve to ignore the cost of renovations and often, this is the biggest obstacle that preservation efforts face.
The only way change will come is with a shift in the perceived value of these places. I hope that my photography and that of other explorers can highlight the beauty in these places and perhaps help to create that shift.
Any final words or shout-outs?
Thanks to Black Doll and Brian Brown Photography (Vanishing South Georgia) for all the inspiration and research work that has continually guided me as a photographer/explorer. And to Abandoned FL for the early support of my work and being the first ‘meetup’ I ever had!
And a final word (in case it hasn’t been said enough): stop asking for locations. Just open your eyes and drive!