A two-year endeavor to preserve one Winter Park historic home never felt closer to completion than it did on Tuesday for Debbie Komanski, executive director of the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden.
“Ta-da,” said Komanski, holding up the official, newly-issued certificate of occupancy for the historic Capen House – a 130-year-old home that was saved from the wrecking ball in late 2013 by the city’s preservation community.
The historic Capen House is only a few weeks away from its reconstruction reaching the finish line at its new home on the grounds of the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The home, once split in two and floated across Lake Osceola back in December 2013, has since been put back together, given a fresh coat of gray paint and surrounded with new brick pathways and landscaping.
Residents and organizations have donated more than $1 million to the fundraising effort – known as Preservation Capen – to move, reassemble and renovate the home.
“The sense of relief is impossible to describe,” Komanski said. “There’s been so much generosity, so much support, so many worries. To be standing here with the air conditioning on and with the lights on and the fresh paint everywhere and holding the certificate of occupancy … It’s real.”
Workers are currently finishing the hardwood floor while furniture is being acquired. Preservation Capen Project Director Christine French said the home will include a “history hall” leading to the home’s kitchen, which will be adorned with a written history of the house, its original occupants, and how the Winter Park community fought to preserve it.
“It will be simple, but it will tell the whole story,” French said. “People can very quickly forget that this house had to be moved. In a generation people will say, ‘Oh, that’s always been there.’”
“There’s a story behind it.”
It’s been almost exactly two years since Komanski first heard the home was in danger, receiving a call from Friends of Casa Feliz Executive Director Betsy Owens in June 2013.
“We had laughed many a time, because she said ‘I might have a free house for you,’” Komanski said.
The home will be used this summer for various receptions and programs, including some scheduled art classes and a wedding, said Komanski, adding that Preservation Capen is still looking for donations in order to finish the landscaping and furnishing.
An official open house for the public will take place on Sunday, Oct. 11, from 1 to 4 p.m., when visitors can take a guided tour of the home.