The Drift Inn, formerly Bengston Cottage
Located at 343 East Graves Ave, The Drift Inn is believed to be one of the oldest buildings in Orange City. The documented history of the structure begins about 1895. The home is of Framed Vernacular architecture. It is supported by brick and masonry piers and features wrap-around porches, now incorporated, abundant cross-ventilation through opposing windows and doors, high tin ceilings for maximum cooling, and balloon native pine construction, with pine-board inside walls. Multiple gable roofs allowed dead hot air to collect in the attic above the living space. This house is nicely restored to the 1900s Victorian elegance.
Backstory and Context
The Drift Inn is estimated to be built some time in the 1870s, with additions added in the 1890s. It was built of southern pine and cypress, probably locally sourced, in the Florida Cracker style architecture. This style is notable for its high-peaked roofs. The cottage is believed to be originally own by Charles J. and Frances L. Smith. Charlie was postmaster from 1877 - 1882. He also owned and operated a cotton gin mill in the city. Frances operated the Pioneer Store next door, at the corner of North Oak and East Graves Avenue. The home's earliest confirmed residents were John E. and Emma L. Bengtson, a Swedish couple who operated a general merchandise store on E. Graves Avenue.
In 1904, Isabella Dunlap purchased the cottage from the Bengstons. It was at this time when the detached kitchen was joined to the principle structure by way of an enclosed catwalk. Isabella is noted for her civic involvement in Orange City. At one time, Isabella was the president of the Village Improvement Association, an active member of the Cemetery Association, and one of two women to first serve on the Orange City Town Council in 1921.
In March 1909, Orange City had its most devastating fire, caused by an old oil stove in the house of Dr. Phillip W. Hill. The fire destroyed the Hill home and seven other structures on East Graves and North Oak Avenues. Mrs. Isabella Dunlap saved her cottage by connecting her own hose to a nearby fire hydrant, from which she sprayed down her cottage. During her ownership of the cottage Isabella married and changed her name to Isabella Gerhard.
In 1914 the property was acquired by James and Nella Walden of Connecticut, owners of the property to the west of the Drift Inn cottage. Rev. David Hughes purchased the house in 1935, and it remained in this family for several decades. David's granddaughter Joan J. LaFleur and her husband Bob sold the home in 2004.
2012,Village Improvement Association Orange City's Women's Club. "Tour of Historic Homes and Buildings" walking brochure.
2007, Village Improvement Association Orange City's Women's Club. "Preserving the Past Securing the Future" walking brochure.
United States Department of the Interior National Park Service (2004). National Register of Historic Places Continuation Sheet Orange City Historic District Orange City, Volusia County, Florida
LaFleur, J.(Ed.). (2000). Our Story of Orange City, Florida. Florida: Village Improvement Association, Inc.
Robb, E. (Ed.). (1966) Our Story of Orange City Florida. Florida: Village Improvement Association, Inc.
Photo Courtesy Joan J. LaFleur