Howey Mansion

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.

Howey Mansion | Photo © 2012 Bullet,

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”.

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 Mansion | Photo © 2012 Bullet,

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.

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 property 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 it was not eligible for state historic preservation grant funds due to the fact that it was privately owned.

Howey Mansion | Photo © 2012 Bullet,

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.

On July 13, 2015, Marvel Zona passed away at the age of 97. The mansion is currently owned by Nationstar Mortgage LLC, a mortgage lender.


  1. well thats what happens when you fail to make money the property is either demolished or destoryed or other people come in and take over

  2. Another important historical fact about Howey concerns the famous US Supreme Court case that bears his name, S.E.C. v. W.J. Howey Company, 328 U.S. 293 (1946), which determined that the fractional interests in orange groves Howey was selling were securities.

  3. Where exactly is this? Or an address close by? Has anyone been there? Is the property gated?

    • Since there are photos, I would assume yes, someone has been there. The property is gated and watched by county sheriff.

      • Yes, I have been there inside and out. It is gated with a wall and it’s in a very small town with residents surrounding. They call the Howey PD if there are trespassers. Howey is so small the PD will be there in less than a minute. I grew up there and went inside when I was a child while my friends’ mom cleaned it. I was there in May 2010 when there was an estate sale. I do not suggest trying to attempt to make it on the property, it’s not worth it…other have been caught.

    • Lake county Florida

    • i was there today. it is gated a monitored by cameras by police. its for sale $2 million. it beautiful to see even through the gate

      • I was there the same day, might have passed you on the way to the crypt. Such a shame to let this grandure decay. I would pay money to tour this property. Such a possibilities.

      • Amazing the greed of this state with billions for roads paid to Disney roads and bridges out here ; the Disney tax status of VIP allows no taxation for our over used pathways leading to the Disney Godzillionaire operation; Floridians must take up the issue to create more taxes for the rest of Florida’s people including the Middle Class that is ripped off on a daily, brutally basis! Disney, it’s time to give us our heritage restored and a result would be greater chices for every
        tourist and a better overall quality of life in this god-forsaken wilderness in the Disney aftermath. Try some goodwill for the surrounding suffering citizens of Central Florida alongwith your never-ending REVENUE-SHARING goody two-shoes program out there.

    • Yes, the property is gated. It is a very interesting place to take a peak at through the gates. My Grandchildren want us to buy it if we win Lotto !

    • yes its gated I drive by it a lot its amazing!

  4. This wrenches my heart. Of course, we have Winter Park,
    Florida, that allows historic homes to be sold and bulldozed so that
    another McMansion can be built on the site.

  5. Carl H. Schafer

    This is a fine example of Florida’s rich early history. The house should be preserved so Fla. history can be shown with detail and clarity.

    • You are so right. We recently rode by the mansion and it was heartbreaking to see it sitting there just falling to the ground. We recently moved to the area and was just riding around when we came across it. You can tell at one time it was a beautiful home.

      • Donna, my name is Cpl. Hamelink of the Howey in the Hills Police Dept. Per the bank, the current owners of the property. They do not want anyone trespassing on the property.
        The property has walls / fences and is properly mark as no trespassing.
        Feel free to take all the pictures you like from out side the walls.
        All persons found on the property will find them self subject to a trespassing ticket or going to jail.
        If you have any other questions please contact us at the police department.

  6. Autumn Jacunski

    I am trying to find the person that took these pictures. I am making a huge commitment, more than I may be able to handle, but I am going to attempt to put a page together on Facebook with pictures and a history to try to save this house from complete ruin. I know it is going to be a huge task but as a teacher I am out of work for the summer and I want to get a substantial amount done while I am out. I would even like to eventually get media involvement to bring awareness to the house and history behind it. Anyone that would like to get involved even if it is just to offer pictures or a personal story please contact me at which is my home Facebook page. Thank you!

  7. Than you for the info! This was one of the coolest places i have ever been! I really hope this place doesn’t get torn down, that would be a sad day!

  8. Does anyone know how you would go about taking a look at this mansion the legal way?

    • Try contacting the local police or the lawyer in charge of the case.

    • I would love to go for a tour… Makes me sad that one of the windows is open.. with the weather and all???? Any info would help me… It’s on my bucket list to go for a tour in there. Cheryl

      • well, considering that her son went apeshit on a youtube user and threatened him with theft and trespassing, I doubt there will be any tours.

    • the phone number to the real estate company showing it is on the signs around the property

  9. ==–
    I was thinking about to take a look. From Google Earth, there don’t seem to be fences, just gates. And I could park the car far and walk through the oranges, past the mausoleum in the woods.

    I don’t know if that’s legal, but neither are most fun things that don’t hurt anyone these days. I just want to peek in the windows, and I’ll risk it. At worst, it would just be trespassing, not vandalism or burglary.

    But noooo WAY! One of the tags on this article is: “HAUNTED!!” ☠

    — faye kane ♀ smartypants scaredypants

    • why would there only be gates but no fence? think about it.

      • You never said that there were anti-pedestrian fences. I assume there are now since you’re the admin and therefore, the expert. But you asked why I thought there might not be. Okay!

        — To keep trucks out that could haul away stuff

        — To force trespassers to leave their cars on the street so the sheriff knows someone’s skulking around

        — Trespassers on foot could easily push down, put a ladder against, or cut through a fence located near the mausoleum and would never, ever be seen doing it. Stuff could be taken out out the same way and hauled through the orange orchard. Thus, a fence to keep out thieves on foot is a waste of money, and a fence to keep out people who merely want to take pictures is a waste of it, too.

        — The large, fancy gates were from Mr. Howie and are mainly a formality; and the state never had anything to do with it. That’s my theory. My beloved University had huge, ornate brick gates just like Howie’s, but the brick fence around the campus was about a foot tall. All of it was symbolic, to mark the perimeter.

        — I didn’t see any fences in Google street view. Only gates. That required an explanation. Yes, “the fences are wire too thin to see” is an acceptable one, but I didn’t want to assume so in my comment, because the whole point of my post was the punch line about the “haunted” tag. I’m actually homeless and live in a cave in the woods in Virginia. I steal electricity.

        In retrospect, I’m sorry I missed the mausoleum/zombies angle.

        Never ask an autistic person a rhetorical question! Even “Hi, how are you?” will get a long answer.

        faye kane ♀ idiot savant

        • Theories and assumptions are easy to come up with, actually being there is a different story. Fence or no fence, orchard or no orchard, car or no car, it all depends on luck; if the police are patrolling around the house at the time you visit.

        • faye your astute answer is hilarious

      • There is a stone fence and gates around this property. The pictures were probably taken a few years ago when the house had an estate sale. I was thru it at that time. Access to the kitchen and upper rooms were not permitted that weekend. I suspect that the photograper had permission to go and take pictures.
        The possibilities are certainly there with this property. It will need at least 3-5 million in work.

      • It’s completely fenced it!! With security cameras.

    • There is a wall. I grew up in Howey and have been in the mansion many time…gates and a wall.

  10. It’s a shame that this place became a victim of the “bubble”. I would estimate, if you bought it for 2 mil, 1.5 for AC, you would still spend another 2-3 mil to renovate it. It would make a great club hose on a golf ourselves though. That guy that bought the Greenbrier in White Sulfer Springs WV should look into it.

    • I ve known marval since 1982 , very inspirational person , know her whole story and of her demise , she is from winter park , used to own the abbey and many other properties , as far as saving stuff like this , go ahead
      It’s a free country
      As far as the winter park coment earlier , rubbish
      Is marval still living ?
      Truly a remarkable person learned so much from her ,
      My last conversation with her was in 2008 ??! When all this was going down , she was in her 90s living off oranges from her back yard , she told me ” michael , poverty is only a state of mind ”

      • She is still alive. I had the privilege of meeting her today.

        • Wow, that’s cool. Is she still local? I haven’t spoken to her since probably 1995ish….I was just a kid then but she let us tour the house. Sweet lady.

  11. I’ve been in the mansion twice. Those first photos must have been taken long before I went because those rugs were no longer there. Possibly sold at the estate sale. The mansion is beautiful, I spent hours there taking photos. It’s like a dream.

  12. What an interesting and tragic tale. I enjoyed reading it, thanks for sharing it.

  13. What an interesting story and like the lady above said very tragic. It is such a shame for history such as that to be forgotten or tied up the way it is.

  14. URGENTLY trying to contact the owner of this amazing property, or a relative, lawyer, caretaker, etc in the hope of legally gaining access in the very near future. We have a full crew and are hoping to film there for a day, but it has to be totally legit and above board. Any help in pointing me in the right direction is greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

    • People who say “legit” are not legitimate. I could renovate the entire property for under $800,000. Would someone tell barney to take his one bullet, and go over there and close the windows. For crying out loud, the bank has ans asset manager, who owes us that much. Come on people lets organize some action on this thing this year.

  15. Meant to add a contact email:

  16. Thank you for all the history and pictures of this beautiful mansion. I have been so fascinated and intrigued by this beautiful “spooky” house and was dying to be able to get inside. I had so many questions and you answered them all with amazing details about Mr. Howey and on top of that you gave me an inside tour with the pictures.

  17. is there anyone you can call to maybe perhaps get permission to be on the property to take pcitures?

    • According to Marvel Zona’s son, at the moment, no. The mansion is no longer for sale, the mortgage issues are currently being taken to court and will be resolved soon.

  18. How were you able to get on the property to the crypt? I would love to do that.

  19. This would make the perfect setting for the story I am writing. I don’t like that no one is doing anything to keep it up and show it to people.

    I do. It was truly a beautiful place! I so enjoyed our visit there. Especially the visit in the summer of 1981 when my 89 year old grandmother, mother, and sister in law, visiting from Texas, were with us. My teenaged daughter was spending some of the summer at the mansion with Aunt Bessie, her first grade teacher. Who was now care taker of Mrs. Howie. Mommie, my 88 year old grandmother and Mrs. Howey had a great time talking history of their times. Mrs. Howey gave us a grand tour with wonderful history and funny happenings. She was a gracious hostess. It was truly a highlight from those days. So sorry to hear that gorgeous mansion and grounds are abandoned! How could that be?

  21. I actually went there yesterday and explored the grounds with my family. We know the current owner, and I must say the inside view is extraordinary. I was completely in awe.

    • Any way that a member of a local historic foundation can tour the grounds with the owner? Thanks for any info!

  22. I have left repeated messages with the “realtor.” They don’t even call back. I with a local history / heritage foundation and would love to explore the grounds, at least. I hate when these beautiful places end up mired in stupid litigation and architectural malaise…

    • I agree so much should be documented & photographed for history, I am at least 5th maybe 6th generation Florida Cracker w/ 2 more generation behind me! Keep trying Jim! See if I can get info from historical friends to help you!

      • Mansion is under control of a new Real Estate Company. Trespasser will issued tickets or taken to jail.

        • Sneaky Pete Urban Explorer

          Just sneeked into this incredible mansion, sure helped having NVGs to navigate myself around the cameras, but I noticed they are all “dummy cameras ” just to keep trespassers out, I took nothing but pics, need to use my ip scrambled pc to create a webpage , but coming soon..PS Local Sherrifs parked near orange grove look to be taking a nap!

  23. Jan 4 2014, had a tour of mansion today. It was a private showing with realitor. Amazing to say the least. The home was in great shape . I could not believe how untouched by time . There really wasn’t any rot or decay. It needs some roof tiles and interior paint. The kitchen needs total remodel. I think the grounds would cost more to renovate than house.( not counting new air) house truly solid , level floors ,solid walls. The walls are all block and stucco inside and out. The sub floors are concrete with wood overlay. There just is nothing to rot. It was beautiful!

    • Asking price? MLS number?

      • No price asked. Odd , it’s like its a mistery. We only found out because we are visiting family in howey and a friend mentioned the house would be shown tomorrow. We met at gate sat at 11:30 and walked right in. Not rushed. Spent as much time as wanted. Some we’re saying it would be around 500,000 or more to get it. I think the bank wants to unload and you could get it cheaper. Just my opinion. It is a white elephant ,just like all mansions in the country. The cost of upkeep would be brutal . Not bad if you wanted to live in it like marvel , in one room off of main door. People want luxury these days and what was luxury back in the day wont cut it by today’s standards. I would love to buy and renovate.

    • Darin, I would love to find a way to get a tour of this beautiful place. Is there a way you could help me? I am going to be visiting from Michigan next week and will do whatever I need through the proper channels to get a once in a lifetime chance at looking at this place. Thank you for any help you can provide. Regina

  24. Who is the realtor? I think I have been dealing with the wrong person :)

    • I’ll have to look at sign again on gate. She lives in howey. We saw her on walk and got to ya king about the hoses for sale and one thing led to another and I mentioned the mansion. That’s when she said she had a showing. We were invited. I’ll ask mother in law when she gets back ( it’s her neighbor) the gal that was being shown property was from Utah.

      • I would love a recent update on this estate. I understand it is not for sale, is the son keeping it? Also curious about the incident with the son and the YouTube guru, (adamthewoo by any chance?). I have much more id love to chat about and a lot id love to share. Please feel free to email me at you should receive a response within 24 hours.

  25. Darin, thank you- please do. I will contact her then. :)

    • Jim, have you received the information needed to tour the mansion (from Darin Surr)? I an also local and would love to tour it with you if you and/or the realtor would allow.. Please contact me if able.

  26. No info yet, unless I missed something… ?

  27. I have a friend in her 70’s that visits from Michigan every year and is fascinated with the mansion. If there are any public tours, please pass it along.

  28. 1.5 mil for repairs? does that include Wi-Fi?

  29. hi if anyone could get back to me on this that would be great! Who is the owner of the house now? I would like to make a visit and make sure it is okay with them first as well, I would pay millions for this house I want to buy it and save it- from the instant I saw a video of someone exploring this house I knew I had to have it no matter the cost, this house is a castle and is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and with such history!

    • We are winter residents at Mission Inn across the road from the mansion. I walk by it every morning. I hope you are serious about purchasing it and restoring it. So many people would rejoice!

  30. We stopped by today. There is a restoration project going on, with some local folks working on the grounds. There will be a photo walkabout on May 4. They now have a fledgling Facebook page, just started. Look for HoweyMansion on FB.

    The woman in charge would not let us walk inside, but did let us take pictures from outside and wander around the grounds. Her name is Jackquelyn … I believe she is associated with the real estate company listed on the signs on the front gates. I’d call first.

  31. It’s William J. Howey Mansion Community Restoration Project on Facebook (

  32. I am a real estate broker with an interested buyer. Reading these posts, there are many conflicting reports. Is this house indeed for sale and if so how much? Can someone please contact me 407-745-9408 Mindy Serratore, Lic. Real Estate Broker

  33. I live in Tampa, Florida, I would love to go on a tour to see that Beautiful Mansion too.

  34. Update on Howey Mansion: posted in the last 30 days (May-2014) on Orlando’s Craigslist. Thought those truly interested in restoring or volunteering their talents could benefit from this information:

    Need volunteers for the Restore the Historic Howey Mansion (1001 Citrus Avenue Howey-The-Hills, Flor)

    Historic Howey Mansion Restoration. We need volunteers to help with this project, for physical work and volunteers to help raise the donations. We desperately need an attorney as well, a volunteer attorney, no pay. If you want to help, please contact us. Also, if you know an attorney that can volunteer a few hours each week please let us know.

    Thank you.
    Joseph Nemchik
    Historic Howey Mansion, Inc.
    a non-profit corporation
    1001 Citrus Avenue
    Howey-The-Hills, Florida 34737

    • Eileen Klosterman

      My Bucket List (I’m 77) top priority is touring this beautiful home and property while I still can. Would be willing to volunteer whatever I can do to make that happen. Have looked at it thru closed gates many many times and love it more each time. Please preserve this priceless property.

  35. Skeptical on the reverse mortgage part of the story. As I understand, one of the requirements of a reverse mortgage is that 1.) You have to be living on the property and 2.) it’s the only property you own. The story reveals that she owned another “home” in NC…This would be a breach enabling foreclosure of the reverse mortgage property long before the scammers even got involved in the first place.

  36. Would it be possible to speak yo someone about having my wedding here?

  37. nice home any body got anyole shacks i can salvage im remodeling my house love that old dry wood straight and true

  38. I also would love to see this mansion, I love historic homes and I love photography so would love to photograph this place. I am a senior citizen and would never do damage to a beautiful historic place like this. Is there anyway to be notified about when it might be open for photographers? I am coming from Sarasota so would need a few days notice but I would do anything to see this place.

  39. Angela Stonebraker

    In 1964 I attended Howey Academy for a few months (August to December) until I returned to my old boarding school in Boston, an all girls school, because I did not care for the academics being taught at Howey Academy. While there, I was invited to attend a ball at the Howey Mansion by Mrs, Howey, addressing it as a Debutante Ball. It was an evening to remember, with the mansion all lit up in its glory and the property was full of cars that came from all over the state of Florida and beyond. There were many politicians and dignitaries there. The ballroom was truly beautiful as the stairway going upstairs to the restroom that we were told to use. A service maid handed us towels after we washed our hands. It was all very grand, just beautiful….and I will always remember it. History should be preserved.
    Some years ago, not quite sure how many, but my husband and I decided to take a ride to Howey in the Hills to see the old school, Howey Academy, but to my great disappointment, it had changed hands and was no longer the school that I went to, but we did manage to drive right onto the Howey Estate (the gate was wide open) and while walking around we met the grounds keeper, who took us on a tour of the property and allowed me to take a bunch of pictures. In the meantime, a very elderly woman opened the front door to ask us what we were doing there and I explained to her that I once went to a ball in that house when I attended Howey Academy. She was very afraid of us and asked us to leave. This must have been Marvel. All a very nice memory.

  40. It sounds like a VERY NICE FIXER-UPPER!!! Sound’s like just the kind of place for a gentlemen like myself!!

  41. History is one of the most important keys into the present, This piece of florida history should be PRESERVED!!!!!!!! March 2015 saw the outside I love how the past shapes the future in so many ways???? Think about it.

  42. Stephanie Belford

    Sat in my car, outside the gates and looked at the mansion, this past weekend. Two people inside the house ran by the lower windows, probably teens, but freaked me out nonetheless.

    • Stephanie, please report this to the Howey in the Hills police dept at 352-324-2101. Thank you :)

    • Stephanie, Which day did you see the people inside the mansion?
      Thank you, HHPD


  43. Correction- dispatch is 343 not 324 so its 352-343-2101 or call the office at 352-324-2030

  44. Any person(s) caught on the private property of the Howey Mansion will be arrested and taken to jail. The property and mansion have been getting damaged by trespassing persons. The bank in charge of the property is tired of the damage and wants to press charges.

  45. it is not a bank that is in charge of that property. private owners bought it at an auction. we had a brand new surveillance system put it while we were. they should use it. they arent doing anything with the property. its boarded up. so sad. we had such high hopes with our non-profit but It all came down to money and we didn’t have enough. sad it is back to what it was 3 years ago. the house really was different when there were people. for a while it didnt seem sad anymore.

  46. Its not a private owner. It is a bank and I am in contact with bank. No one is allowed on the property with out written permission by the bank. The bank wants all person (s) arrested that are found on the property.

    • are you with HHPD? is Curtis still in touch?

    • oh and fyi i haven’t been on the property since the auction so no worries. i will hold my memories in my heart and all my pictures. but i am sure those ‘urban explorers’ keep HHPD busy.

  47. Chief Robbins has retired. Yes am the code enforcement officer for the department. The bank has given us written authorization to arrest any and all person found on the mansion property.

    • i know he retired i was just wondering if he has kept in touch. he was very kind to me when he found out i was working on a non-profit. he knew me when i was a teenager so he was always there to help with any questions.

  48. I wish people could have respect for other peoples property. If it doesn’t belong to you dont trespass. You would not like it if people were coming onto your property.

    • Can i ask why the house was boarded up? I thought there was a woman or group in charge of it’s upkeep, and was the one to speak to to see it.

  49. House is boarded up by the bank in charge of the property, because people keep breaking in to it instead of respecting other peoples property.

  50. I would love to go inside the house to take pictures. Places like this need to be preserved before they are ruined or gone forever.

  51. James,
    The bank that is currently in control of the property and has given the Howey police department written permission to arrest all person (s) that are trespassing on the property.
    The banks wish is that the general public would stop trespassing and causing damage to the property.

  52. So is there a way to go to and or inside this house to take pictures?

  53. Officer J. Hamelink

    No there is no way to go on or into the property to take pictures. Per the bank they want all trespassers arrested.

  54. Okay thank you officer

  55. Where might someone find a contact or get the name of current bank in possession of the property ?

  56. Where can we get info on the bank in charge of the home?

  57. Officer J. Hamelink

    Property is not for sale

  58. of course it isnt… its better left boarded up and rotting. maybe mission inn knows more.

  59. Officer J. Hamelink

    They don’t know anything. They aren’t involved.
    But per the bank. They don’t want anyone one on their property.

  60. we already know… since you have said it, i dont know, 10 or so times. but that one extra time, i am sure, will really bring your point home. so, once more? is there anyway anyone can get onto the mansion property? its okay. we already know the answer from the greedy corporate suits that nailed boards into a historical 90 year old homes walls.

  61. Officer J. Hamelink

    Maybe if people would respect other people’s property there won’t have been a need to board up the residents, but because people continue to break in and do damage, because they feel they have the right to do.
    The answer is still no. U can’t go into or on the property.

  62. Haha… I knew that would get a rise out if you Mr. Hamelink. I have no intention to access the property illegally, so don’t get all worried about me. I will only be there legally and when I do finally get back out there it would be an honour if you were my guest. My children and husband have seen the place so many times that it does not captivate them as much any longer. Then I can finally shake the hand of the ever-so law abiding man that has made it clear that NO ONE can go out there without being arrested. Oh, and I do agree about people illegally going out there but if you even cared an ounce for that house you would feel the pain I feel knowing that nails have been plunged into its outer walls. Luckily for you, it’s just a house and it’s just a job. I very much look forward to meeting you one day. Curtis told me you were a nice person, and although I argued that it couldn’t be the same person that was very brash and uncaring, he insisted you were just misunderstood. I hope you sleep well tonight.

  63. And just a side note… banks are not people. They are a group of money hungry, inconsiderate conglomerates who focus on one thing… MONEY. They have no regard for history or the significant impact that was made by the man who built this house unless they can put a dollar sign on it. What’s right ks right but they aren’t paying my bills. They are a business card hiding behind their desks like little trolls under a bridge waiting to jump out and steal something else important from the regular working people.

  64. I found a picture of you… now I will know who to look for when I am in the area or at council meetings.

  65. What would Mr. Howey say?

  66. Jane,

    Officer Hamelink is just trying to do his job in protecting the mansion. Sometimes people need to be told again and again or they don’t read all the comments. This post started back in April 2013 and there were comments with people asking about gates/walls and the surroundings because they were planning to trespass. Those same people get emails updates on this post just as I do, so reiterating is a necessity.

    They have dealt with a number of trespassers and they’re probably quite tired of dealing with the issue of people damaging the mansion. I’m not sure how you think its okay to say that he doesn’t care about the walls of the mansion being damaged by being boarded up. As he said it only has been boarded up because people aren’t respecting the property and that was the bank’s doing. His job in the code enforcement division is to keep the city looking beautiful so you can imagine that he doesn’t love the fact that the mansion has had to be boarded up because its anything but beautiful. The officers there have a job to protect the city, they don’t go to school for this career because they could care less and certainly aren’t getting rich.

    I grew up in Howey and spent time in the mansion as a child and then again during the estate sale. There is something about that small town that most everyone in it has a sense of pride for the town and the mansion!

    It kills me to see the mansion boarded and vacant. There was a Facebook group and a lady that was trying to save the mansion but things didn’t work out as everyone had hoped. If you are interested to see pictures or drone videos from when the group had access to the mansion you can search Facebook for William J. Howey Mansion Community Restoration Project or Hoping for Help at the Howey Mansion.

    Have a great day :)

  67. My sweet lady,
    Yes, I do understand everything you said, quite a bit more than you could imagine. I have spent hundreds of hours in that mansion over the last 2 years. I am very well aware of Jackie and keep in very close contact with her. It is very nice of you to defend Hamelink but it is not necessary seeing that I am only being sarcastic and apparently terrible at it. I do hold some ill feelings towards him because he has no idea who I am or how much I have actually done to try to save that place, but that is my fault, not his, due to the fact that I have never prpoerly introduced myself. As for seeing pictures, I have thousands of my own and plenty of memories that are still very fresh in my mind. I am sure Hamelink appreciates you defending his professional position but I come from a much more emotional standpoint on this mansion. Good day.

  68. Sarcasm is easier in to understand in person rather than typed so there tends to be misunderstandings in online text. Glad to know how much you have cared for the mansion. You are lucky to have the pictures and the memories. I feel lucky to have spent so much time exploring the house as a child. My babysitter/best friend’s mom cleaned to mansion for Mrs. Zona so we went with her and spent hours there.. This was in the early to mid 90’s when the house was in well kept condition and filled with antique furniture. I drove by to see the boards for myself after taking my daughters to the town Christmas Parade. I still have hopes for the mansion…for now the situation just sucks. Best wishes!

  69. I am not sure if you are aware but Marvel has passed. It was a very sad time and she will be missed. I posted it on the Hoping For Help at the Howey Mansion page.

  70. Permission Denied

    TLDR of previous post: The openings to the gate (look) wide enough for even a mildly obese man to fit through. The owner of the property is: NATIONSTAR MORTGAGE LLC; Their contact info is easy enough to get.

  71. Permission Denied

    Ohh, and “Officer Hamelick”, why don’t you and Cpl. Brown send more citations out to Nationstar? Surely they are in violation of some codes. Furthermore, I am sure that they are the focus of far too many man hour spent hunting down evil photographers and history buffs.

  72. Permission Denied

    I am a Howey resident. I think the property is overgrown and exhibits excessive vegetation. Would you suggest that I file a complaint?

  73. Permission Denied please contact me at I would like to speak with you privately. I will gibe you better contact information though my private email. Thank you!

  74. I am proud to see the surrounding wall cleared of over growth and debris. The city is doing a great job in trying to protect the property. I pray a solution is found before the home deteriorates anymore.

  75. The obliteration of the past in lake County is NOT a good thing.

  76. Does anyone know how to access the home legally? A few photographers and I would just like to take pictures.

  77. Is the current title holder willing to grant permission in exchange for a modest access fee? Seems like some revenue generation is better than none. A one page form to hold the title holder harmless and identify specific dates and purpose of access should cover legal aspects.

  78. Ofc. Hamelink Howey in the Hills Police Dept

    My last communication with the bank. They do not want anyone on their property. They want all trespassers arrested or issued a ticket.
    There has been quite a bit of damage done to the inside from people breaking in and not respect their privacy.
    I think you could agree if this property belong to you and you have posted the property. You want people to respect your wishes and stay off the property.

    • Yes I sure would
      Even if your curious, it does not give you the right to go on someone’s property.
      It could be very dangerous like the man who fell through a elevator shaft at the abandon Sanland hospital. He was in a coma for two months.
      Be safe and courteous

  79. Officer Hamelink, I understand they don’t want folks on their property without their permission. I’m not proposing to trespass. I also am willing to sign a document that I’ll do no harm to the property during a photo shoot, and might even effect a minor repair at my own expense. Rather than copy and paste your previous responses, could you bother to speak to someone at the bank about allowing a responsible party making a reasonable request for access. Monitored if they desire.

  80. is it possible to host my wedding here? Ive seen lots of professional photo shoots inside the mansion.

    • Ofc. Hamelink Howey in the Hills Police

      No. The current owner of the property does not any one on the property.

  81. If it’s been abandoned and sitting there rotting away how in the h*ll can it be worth 2 million? The longer it sit and not maintained the more it will become structurally unsound then become a teardown. Very sad so it would be beneficial to a take a small loss and save it and restore it to its former glory. Why is it so hard to treasure beautiful structure in the US only to see them left to be distorted because of greed.

    • You must be forgetting that the property is enormous, which is probably why its $2 million. Also, whoever buys the house for that will have the money to fix it up. Say it’s given to you for free, I highly doubt you have the income to restore it.

  82. Buy it and maybe people would quit breaking into and do damage.

  83. This would be a great place for a wedding. But they won’t allow it. I do know if another mansion. In northwest Florida. Is called the Waits Mansion. Has been fully restored over the last year. I could get you info. Contact me at

  84. Why must there be so many conflicts and waste of such beautiful property?

  85. OK… how about this… Is there a contact at the bank to discuss the possible purchase “It’s not for sale” Yes… yes it is. I don’t want to see the property, visit the property or otherwise touch anything on the property. I simply want to discuss the possibility of this property being bought with the owner (bank). How about that?

  86. After reading this thread for over three years, And seeing the posts by “Officer Hamelink”, who obviously could care less about the Howey Mansion (keep reading, you’ll soon understand this “officer.”), I have found a little more about this “officer”, and the way he actually treats the people he comes in contact with. Ah, you can find many things on the internet, some true, some not so true. The article below comes from Facebook. Read on, my friends. You’ll soon see “Officer” Hamelink in a very different light, ESPECIALLY if you value our nations veterans and war heroes, which obviously, this officer does not.

    Posted by Oscar De Vere Morris on Facebook

    December 9 at 2:06pm · Mount Dora, FL ·


    Local War Hero Facing Injustice by the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills

    Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink Harassing American Hero

    In December 1950, Army Sergeant First Class Gene Chaput was on the front line in North Korea fighting back a massive bloody counterattack by over 300,000 Chinese Communists in some of the fiercest fighting in the Korean War. The men who fought in this battle are considered some of the bravest to ever put on an American military uniform and Sergeant Chaput earned three Bronze Stars for his heroic actions. Gene Chaput is a real American Hero.

    66 years later, this 89-year-old Korean War Veteran and American hero is in another battle for freedom with the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills, because he trimmed two trees on his property after receiving permission to trim them by the town. There is clear a case of abuse of power by Howey-in-the-Hills and the town’s Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink, who is also a Corporal of the Howey-in-the-Hills Police Department. They are trying to make an example of this war hero. The very freedom that Gene Chaput fought so hard for in 1950 is being threatened today by an overzealous officer whose actions border on harassment.

    The facts in this matter are very clear and indisputable. Gene Chaput has lived in his home on Lake Shore Boulevard since 1983. At the time, he planted two laurel oak trees in his yard. Over the last 36 years, these two trees grew to a point in which the limbs became a hazard to his home. In the 44 years that Chaput has lived in the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills, he has planted hundreds of trees in the town including oaks, cypress, and pine trees—he understands the importance of trees.

    As summer ended, Gene Chaput decided that the two laurel oak trees needed to be trimmed in the fall to protect his home. Before he started trimming the trees, he went to the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills to find out if he would need a permit to trim the two trees. He spoke with Dairian Burke and Brenda Fisher who told him a permit would not be required to trim the trees and that a permit is only required for the removal of trees.

    After verifying he was not required to obtain a permit, Gene Chaput arranged assistance to have the trees trimmed on a Saturday. At some point, someone called the Town of Howey-in-the Hills and reported that Mr. Chaput was cutting down trees without a permit. Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink went to the Chaput home. He instructed them to stop cutting down the trees. At that time, Chaput explained that he was only trimming the trees and had gained approval from the town. Hamelink told them to stop and get a permit.

    Subsequently, Gene Chaput went back to the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills and explained the situation again to town officials. He was told again that a permit was not required and there were no restrictions for trimming his trees. Mr. Chaput went back to his home to finish trimming the second tree. He was once again approached by Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink who instructed him to stop and to speak to Police Chief Rick Thomas. Chaput finished cutting the last two limbs and cut the tree debris up in the size required by the town and put it on the side of the road for pickup.

    On September 13, 2016, Gene Chaput received a notice from Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink that the town would not pick up his debris on the side of the road, despite him following the town’s requirements. Mr. Chaput hired a private firm at a cost of $500 to remove the debris. Mr. Chaput followed the rules, yet Hamelink and the town decided to arbitrarily punish him.

    On October 25, 2016, Gene Chaput received a Notice of Hearing on the alleged violations from Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink and the town stating he committed three violations by removing two trees. Two violations cited are for “hat-racking” two trees and one violation cited is for not obtaining a permit for cutting down the trees. The two trees in question were not cut down and at no point when Mr. Chaput inquired did the town give him any information of code requirements for trimming trees.

    A hearing was held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, with Special Magistrate Heather Christman, who was hired by the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills and who has worked on other cases for the town. Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink represented the town’s positon and they accepted testimony from an arborist who admitted that the trees are not dead and that the limbs will grow back. In the hearing, the town admitted that Mr. Chaput did inquire about a permit and code requirement information for tree trimming. They also admitted that they told him there are no code requirements for trimming trees. Despite those devastating admissions by the town, Special Magistrate Heather Christman ruled in favor of the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills. There is no doubt about it, the fix is in and it is being led by John Hamelink.

    On Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 10:00 a.m., in the Commission Chambers, Town Hall, 101 N Palm Ave., Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, Gene Chaput will have to face a Special Master in a hearing to consider an Order to Impose Fines and Liens. This Notice of Hearing was also served by Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink. Should they choose to do so, the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills can impose fines up to $5,000 per tree, put a lien on Mr. Chaput’s home, or who knows what—given the grudge that Hamelink has for this war hero!

    Click here to view the letters and Notices of Hearing served on Gene Chaput by Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink.

    Gene Chaput has lived in the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills for 44 years, raising his two sons Jim and Jerry. In 2010, Mr. Chaput lost his wife Gayle after 52 years of marriage. The Chaputs are good people who, just like many reading this column, try to follow the rules. Mr. Chaput tried to follow the rules of the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills and this attack on him is a perfect demonstration of a local government bureaucracy that has gone amuck. On another note, the two laurel oaks in question have only about a 40-year life expectancy, unlike live oaks.

    Would you please stand up for this American Hero? Call Code Enforcement Officer John Hamelink at 352-324-2030 (office phone) or 352-638-0524 (cell phone) and ask him why he is harassing Gene Chaput. Also contact Mayor Chris Sears by phone at 352-227-0772 or email and ask him if he supports what the Town of Howey-in-the Hills is doing to this American hero.
    66 years later, Gene Chaput is still fighting for freedom. Will you stand with him?

    Stephan – WOW! Seems as if “Officer” Hamelink is an entirely different person than the others above ^ seem to think he is. I understand Codes Enforcement as well as the next guy, being a Contractor for over forty years. So “Officer” Hamelink, I DO NOT need any comment from you about this post. However I would LOVE to hear your explanation in the harrasement of a Korean War Veteran, who has been through hell and bank against the Communist Chinese Army in Korea. Can you provide photographs of the said “two trees”, or as it is, the stumps of said trees, that YOU said were cut down illegally. My bet is that you cannot.

    Read on, friends of History…

    From “the Right Side of the Lake blog” comment section, just after the article that I copied and paste above –

    Name Paul Wilks

    December 11, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Dear Howey In the Hills personnel,

    IF, and I repeat IF, everything I just read via the media is true, in my opinion you are very sick with a hunger for power to abuse this American hero for trimming his trees to protect his property.

    To the Code Enforcement Officer and the Chief of Police: I’m a 37 year retired Law Enforcement officer and formerly a Chief of Police in Findlay Twp (home of Pittsburgh International Airport), SWAT Team supervisor in Hollywood, Florida, a graduate of the Miami PD SWAT academy, a 1994 graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice (Nova Southeast University – 1977) and a retired CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) assessor for over 13 years. That is only a partial list of my credentials. If what I read regarding your treatment of Mr. Chaput is true, you should be ashamed of yourselves!!! Is this how you would treat a loved one or someone who was a member of your family? When I was a Chief, the treatment of citizens as such was a part of my mission statement.

    This is unconscionable in America. What happened to American freedom?

    As a citizen of Lake County I will do everything within my power to support this Korean War veteran and to protect his rights as a FREE AMERICAN.

    I sincerely hope that what I’ve read via the media is not factual because it’s actually too hard to believe it’s true. I can’t imagine in America, any government body would treat an American citizen in this way.

    Paul Wilks
    Clermont, Florida

    Stephan – Now do NOT get me wrong, dear readers. I Back the Blue. I stand with them. My wifes family are ALL law enforcement. As well as veterans of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanstan, and Iraq. Not to mention our deceased family members, who served with pride in the United States Military during the Revolution, Civil War, Spanish-American War, WWI, and WWII. And every one of them has stated, unequivocaly, after hearing about “Officer” Hamelink’s vendetta against this war hero, that this so called “officer” has what they call the GOD SYNDROME. They got the badge. Now THEY ARE GOD. Sad how some in Law Enforcement get this God Disease, but there are bad apples in ALL facets of life. And this so called “officer”, Officer John Hamelink, is one of them.

    Just wondering, Hamelink, did YOU ever serve? I sincerely doubt it. Or you would not treat a brother in arms the way you have treated Gene Chaput. Frankly sir, you should turn in your badge.

    Damn the Banks. They only exist to make money off of US. They’ve made plenty off of me!

    Additionally, dear readers, I invite you to Google this township and it’s Police Department. Seems there is more corruption in this little area of Florida than many realize, except maybe, the residents.

    I’ll be sure to pass these things along to all my friends who are retiring to Florida. I bet these fine people will not go ANYWHERE NEAR Howey in the Hills, Florida.

    Hamelink, you should be ashmed of yourself. Go find another career while you are still young. Reference the ignorance of youth.

  87. Heather Christman needs to GO. Along with her accomplices.

  88. Quite a few need to go… The only reason the HHPD installed surveillance cameras is so they do not have to waste manpower going there and patrolling the area, imho. These beautiful sites need to be preserved. We are losing our history, heritage, and our purpose as a nation. Places like The Howey Mansion, not to mention other sites, such as Silver Springs and Cypress Gardens are what made America great. Losing our history is losing is our country.

  89. I’m glad I was able to get in – legitimately- and took a million pictures. The safe in the bedroom that someone tried to chisel out … the secret handle in a library book shelf that opens a door to a staircase that leads down to a secret room … the beautiful; stonework in the back yards … the marvelous expanse of that great big room at the entry … that staircase! It’s too damn bad that something can’t be done to allow people to appreciate this grand home.