DeBary Hall was the winter retreat of a European-born wine merchant
who chose the St. Johns River country for his hunting estate. Beginning
in the 1870s, New Yorker Frederick deBary acquired lands near Lake
Monroe, built a large vacation house, and tried his hand at orange
growing and commercial steamboating. He completed his hunting lodge
in 1871. (View
all, this Florida estate became a center of sport hunting and hospitality.
Entertainment,” said one relative, “was a very simple
matter at DeBary Hall. Most guests were asked because they enjoyed
the out of doors, with swimming, hunting, and fishing.”
When deBary’s last American heir died
in 1941, the retreat had grown to more than 6,000 acres with many
outbuildings. Today’s historic site is a little smaller—ten
acres. But it still includes the 8,000-square-foot main house,
stables and other structures, plus artifacts from a kind of working farm,
even if the crops were bobwhite quail.
DeBary Hall also offers glimpses of larger
things: America’s long romance with Florida, a nineteenth-century
tourism boom, orange fever, and steamboating on the St. Johns. And
since local African-American and white workers kept the estate going
year-round, their lives are central to the storytelling here.
If this sounds interesting, please visit
us at DeBary Hall historic Site. You’ll find remarkable buildings,
a treasure trove of historical images, and many good stories. It’s
a place worth exploring.
Picture sources: DeBary Hall Historic
Site image collection; Special Collections Department, Florida State
University Libraries; Florida Photographic Collection, State Archives; Imagicom Inc.; A.G. Phillips; Olin Library Archives; and Special
Collections Department, Rollins College.
you have a story about DeBary Hall? We want to hear it!
DeBary Hall is collecting personal stories, memories and
experiences. If you have a DeBary Hall story to share, please
198 Sunrise Blvd.
DeBary, FL 32713
386-668-3840 or 386-736-5953