Two brothers who are longtime Orlando real-estate investors announced Monday that they are the buyers of the historic Howey mansion in Lake County and plan to renovate the 1925 home into a place for weddings, special and community events — possibly even a bed-and-breakfast.
The mansion sold last month after just nine days on the market, but the buyer wasn’t disclosed until Monday. Brad Cowherd, principal of Florida Oranges Land Co. and a third-generation investor in Central Florida properties, said the purchase price was $630,000. It had been on the market for $480,000.
Cowherd told Howey Town Council members at a meeting Monday night that he has been eyeing the mansion as a renovation project for several years.
He said he and his brother Clay plan to close on the purchase in the next 30 days if things go smoothly. One issue he brought up to council members was a lien by the town for water usage at the mansion. He said he agreed to take on the lien, about $25,000, as part of the purchase, but Mayor Chris Sears and other council members said they would work with him on a resolution.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the eight-bedroom mansion was built by New York architect Katherine Budd for businessman and citrus grower William Howey, founder of Howey-in-the-Hills.
In its early days, the home was the site of fabulous parties that even drew a visit from former President Calvin Coolidge.
It has long been considered the town’s historic treasure.
But in recent years, the home has sat vacant and fallen into disrepair. It has neither air-conditioning nor heating. It needs new windows. And a recent estimate showed the roof requires nearly $130,000 in repairs.
Council members discussed creating a new historic preservation overlay district to allow the kinds of uses that will allow both the town and the Cowherd brothers to open the mansion to the public. Those details have yet to be worked out.
“I think it’s a win-win,” Sears said. “I’m ecstatic.”