110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
New owner says he will save landmark
By Pat Andrews
posted Aug 22, 2012 - 7:44:39am
The derelict Bob White Packing House in DeLeon Springs, a busy hub of activity in the early 20th century, may gain new life with a new owner.
Steve Strickland of Oviedo is purchasing the 13-acre property that includes the historic but deteriorating packinghouse. Strickland, who's in the hay and feed business, wants to put a feed store on the front on the property, which sits along U.S. Highway 17 at Lake Winona Road.
Strickland, for whom antiques are a passion, said of the property and its buildings, "I'm going to try and clean it up."
The packinghouse is in bad shape, he acknowledged, but Strickland wants to "save everything," he said.
The real-estate closing is set for Thursday, Aug. 30.
Strickland is paying $50,000 for the property, he said. He had been looking at the property for a couple of years, and recently made the offer.
In February 2009, River of Lakes Heritage Corridor tourism officials tried to purchase the property to preserve and use the packinghouse, perhaps as a museum. At that time, the price was $175,000, too much for the group to raise.
The property, owned by father John Strawn and then, son Mark Strawn, has been sitting unused for many years.
The packinghouse began processing oranges under the "Bob White" label in 1882, when Theodore Strawn built the original packinghouse and ran a prosperous business. A fire destroyed the original building, and Theodore Strawn built the current structure, designed to be fireproof, in 1921.
Back-to-back freezes in the early 1980s killed most citrus groves in West Volusia, and put an end to packing operations.
The Strawn Packinghouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 13, 1993, along with an adjoining sawmill which has since been sold.
The Strawns applied to Volusia County in 2006 and 2008 for permission to demolish the historic packinghouse, but failed to get approval. Strawn lawyer Alex Ford said then that the packinghouse would cost millions to restore, and was impossible to insure.
Vandalism and arson have plagued the property. A case of arson destroyed one of the smaller buildings in December 2009, but firefighters doused the flames before they could spread to the main building. It was one of several fires to plague the property.
Mark Shuttleworth, owner of Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques in DeLand, numbers Strickland among his clients. Shuttleworth sees the packinghouse as worth the effort. He noted its huge wall of textured glass that gives the interior "an incredible north light."
"I want him to save the building," Shuttleworth said. He's willing to work with Strickland on historic preservation.
Perhaps the building could be leased, Shuttleworth suggested.
All that remains to be worked out.
First, Strickland will have to complete the property's purchase, and he wants to get the retail store designed, permitted by the county, and built.
Strickland has been operating his "Hay Baby" hay and feed business out of Lake County, marketing it at locations in DeLeon Springs, Altoona and Mount Dora on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. He wants to establish a permanent feed store in DeLeon Springs.
Strickland is also in the market for a historic home in the DeLand area.
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