The Residential Dwelling
The Simpson Farmhouse next door to the W.T. Bland Public Library was erected about 1905. The builder, David Carpenter, had come to Mount Dora along with his wife, Hepzibah, from Michigan in the early 1880s. He constructed many homes in the community. Originally located about one mile south of the Library, the house was close to downtown on a large lot at 4th Avenue and Tremain Street.
The home was constructed almost entirely of heart pine, a dense wood readily available in this area in those days and almost impervious to termites. The roof, originally cypress shakes, was later covered by tin. The house is comprised of a living room, dining room, kitchen and three large upstairs bedrooms. A covered porch extended around three sides of the house. Later, a sunroom was added on one side of the house. With two chimneys and a steep roof, the style of the house is typical of the northern United States and underscores the fact that a large majority of the early residents of Mount Dora came from the north.
The first owners came from New England, Charles Simpson of Massachusetts and his wife Alfida of New Hampshire. Charles worked as a machinist in one or more cotton mills. They had no children and Charles was about 63-years-old when the couple moved in.
Mount Dora Historical Society saves the Simpson Farmhouse
Charles Simpson died a few years after coming to Mount Dora and his widow Alfida lived in the house until her death in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Her niece Mildred Lott, wife of Chalmers Lott, inherited the home and continued living there after her husband's death. She died in 1987.
At this point, a group of physicians led by Dr. Kenneth Kronhaus, acquired the property and several adjoining lots aiming to demolish the houses and build a large medical clinic specializing in heart disease. A local citizen, David Felts, concerned aout the threat to the city's architectural heritage, began a campaign to save the Simpson house. This involved raising funds to move the home to save it from the wrecking ball. Eventually a local newspaper joined the campaign and the city gave $10,000 to the cause. Dr. Kronhaus agreed and donated the house to the Historical Society in 1991.
A Permanent Location for the Simpson Farmhouse
Fund raising continued and enough money was raised after several months to move what Felts now called the Unity House two blocks southward to a temporary location, which was an empty lot on Tremain Street next to the railroad tracks.
For a permanent location, the city gave the Historical Society a 51 year lease on land it owned on North Donnelly Street in front of the Goat Pond, which is a large retention pond where the banks served as a pasture for a flock of goats. The spot was adjacent to the planned site for a new Library which would be built in 1994 to 1995.
The Mount Dora Library Association comes to the Rescue
The Mount Dora Library Association contributed over $170,000 for the restoration and renovation of the Simpson Farmhouse. The building is now used regularly for meetings and programs with a reading garden and lots of shade.