Its first owner was the President of the A.B. Chase Piano Company, a wealthy man named Calvin Whitney who purchased “9 acres on Lake Charm on April 2, 1886. (Corby et al. 148) from Dr. Henry Foster (Adicks and Neely 29). Having purchased the land Mr. Whitney, had the house built using the very popular Victorian architecture and Revival style being used in the 19th century (“victorian”). Once built, the house’s exterior appearance was the equivalent of a single big family house, however, what appeared to be one house was two separate houses with two separate porches that faced the lake. The house architectural structure served Mr. Whitney well as he would use the place as a double winter home for both his family and his sister; each staying in their individual adjoining homes. A downstairs parlor was the place that brought the whole family together to be entertained by Mr. Whitney's playing the piano; A piano that he and his brother in law had assembled together (Robinson 41).
History and Significance:
The Whitney-Wolcott house is significant because is one of the original houses built on the Lake Charm property that is still standing today. Consequentially, the people that were involved with the location of the house from its beginnings, were very influential individuals that shaped the social and economic growth in the history of the Oviedo, Lake Charm community. One such an influential individual was landowner Dr. Henry Foster, whose idea of turning Lake Charm into a winter resort where northern visitors could tour and/or stay helped the growth of the community. Affluent people like O.H. Brewster who purchased land and built a hotel in 1877 and J. T. Allison who in 1886 was operating a large house as an “invalid’s Hotel” (Adicks and Neely 29). Each investment of property at Lake Charm brought prosperity which resulted in the creation of the Lake Charm Improvement Company by Dr. Foster and Mr. Calvin Whitney in 1888. The Lake Charm Improvement company was a great idea that helped the community to accomplish many projects such as building a drain for the lake, a bulkhead, recovering the muck from the bottom of the lake as well as the building of a sidewalk around the lake (Adicks and Neely 29).
VACATIONING IN FLORIDA:
By the time most of the Lake Charm community was put in place, Florida was becoming a popular vacation spot as Thomas Graham states in his essay that “improvements in the South’s railroad connections made it practical for the class of affluent people in northern states to travel to Florida” (Graham Thomas 280). So much so, that as the railroad expanded people from New York were able to arrive to St. Augustine within thirty one hours without changing trains (Graham Thomas 281).
The Whitney-Wolcott House through the years:
In 1894 the house became The Whitney-Wolcott House when according to grandson Henry Wolcott his grandmother Mary C. Wolcott who was a widow, traded Chase a hotel located in the Catskills Mountains for The Whitney House and moved in with her son O. Gus (“And Then There's Henry Walcott...Not So Pleased.”). Throughout the time the Wolcott family lived there Jim Robinson points out in his book that according to the city historical society Gus Wolcott managed to raise a 6 feet alligator in a metal bathtub that was located on the second floor of the house. Furthermore, Gus became the owner of one of the local stores of Lake Charm community where it is said that he used to “stock barrels of sugar” (Robinson 41). As a result, Gus Wolcott would end up being questioned often about aiding moonshiners’ stills by supplying them with sugar. Maybe they had a reason to think this way since during the raids on stills many sugar barrels stamped with Wolcott’s name were found (Robinson 1999).
In 1970 a local professor that worked for the University of Florida purchased The Whitney-Wolcott House with all its furnishings, the Whitney piano being one of them. But something curious happened as the house was being remodeled because one of the four original fireplaces was uncovered. The owner decided to look inside the uncovered fireplace and he saw a mantle, and inside the mantle, a small board was found. As the new owner looked at the newly discovered small board, there was a message written in pencil that reads: ``J.B. Ludlow made the two cherry mantels, put in the folding doors and the sliding doors. Today is April 7, 1887. J.B. Ludlow of Muncie, Indiana'' (Robinson 1999).
Throughout the decades this house has seen a lot of history and lived through it, to say the least! Today, the house is still standing at the same location although it needs a lot of work and maintenance. The old Lake Charm community looks as beautiful as ever however, this historic house is currently for sale (Zillow, Inc.).