The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation has recognized Preservation Capen, the landmark project to save, move, and restore the historic 1885 Capen-Showalter House, with an Organizational Achievement Award. This award recognizes exceptional examples of projects and individuals in communities across Florida. The Florida Trust received a record number of nominations for its 2014 Preservation Awards program. Award recipients were recognized at the Preservation Awards Ceremony on Friday, May 16, in conjunction with the 2014 annual conference, “Minarets to Mid-Century Modern: Preservation in Tampa Bay.”
John C. Hitt, president of the University of Central Florida, praised the project in a letter to the Florida Trust, writing “I applaud this effort to conserve our architectural heritage in Florida, and I am privileged to support three of our finest local non-profits for this nomination.” Hitt also called the movement to save the house a “remarkable story of public participation in historic preservation.”
In the summer of 2013, the Capen-Showalter House was endangered by new construction. In an unprecedented partnership, three separate Winter Park non-profit cultural and arts organizations forged ahead with a project that few thought would succeed: moving the 200-ton historic home, which was cut into two pieces, across Lake Osceola to a vacant site at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, before January 1, 2014. The move sought both to save the house and to provide the museum with much-needed space for exhibits and events. With the support of more than 400 donors, and with the help of a team of 13 subcontractors, the house was floated to its new location by the end-of-the-year deadline. Innovative thinking by the Boards of Trustees of the three collaborating organizations proved to be the key element of this preservation “win.” Each organization joined with an unqualified commitment to save the building from demolition.
This honor is shared between the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, the Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, and the Winter Park History Museum. Leaders of the three organizations, Debbie Komanski, executive director of the Polasek Museum, Betsy Rogers Owens, executive director of Casa Feliz, Susan Skolfield, executive director of the Winter Park History Museum, and Christine Madrid French, project director of Preservation Capen, were recognized during the 36th annual awards ceremony, held at the historic Tampa Theater in downtown Tampa, Florida.
The next phase for the Capen-Showalter House involves restoration and renovation. Over the next five months, the Polasek Museum (with the help of the Preservation Capen team) is working to re-connect the two halves of the building to create a lively, interesting, historic place for the community to enjoy. When restored, the Capen-Showalter House on the Polasek Museum grounds will provide fully accessible encounters with art, architecture, and nature, and Winter Park will welcome a sparkling addition to its tradition of culture and heritage. A celebratory opening is planned for November 2014 on the grounds of the Polasek Museum to welcome the community to a building they helped to save.
About Preservation Capen: The Capen House was built in 1885 by one of Winter Park’s earliest residents, James Seymour Capen, and later owned by the Showalter family, leaders in Florida’s aviation community. When the house was threatened with demolition, three organizations formed a cooperative effort to save it. In December 2013, the 4,000-square-foot house was cut in two and floated across Lake Osceola to its new home at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. This landmark effort is supported by key leaders in the community, including Thaddeus Seymour (president emeritus of Rollins College and co-chair of Preservation Capen), Lawson Lamar (former Sheriff of Orange County and State Attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, also a co-chair), all of Winter Park’s past mayors (Allen Trovillion, Daniel Hunter, David Johnston, Gary Brewer, Joseph Terranova, Roland “Terry” Hotard, Kenneth “Kip” Marchman and David Strong) who have served over the last fifty years, the Friends of Casa Feliz and the Winter Park Historical Association. The Polasek Museum plans to maintain the Victorian house as a public asset and make the site available for educational programs, art exhibitions, and community gatherings. This is Winter Park’s most ambitious historic preservation project since the moving of another historic home, Casa Feliz, in 2001, to its current location on Park Avenue.
About the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens: http://www.polasek.org/
Founded in 1961, the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens is home to an art collection created by award-winning, internationally recognized, Czech-born American sculptor Albin Polasek. The Museum’s primary exhibit is American representational sculpture, with over 200 works by Polasek. The Museum also exhibits contemporary art in all mediums in its gallery space. Guided tours of the historic Polasek residence and chapel are hallmarks of this museum, as well as its breathtaking sculpture garden located on Lake Osceola. The Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of only 30 members of the National Trust’s Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios.