Winter Park’s Casa Feliz is a hidden gem

Work of James Gamble Rogers II available for weddings, events

WINTER PARK, Fla. – Part of the unique charm of Winter Park is because of its richness in vintage architecture, including the works of architect James Gamble Rogers II.

One of his most notable designs is Casa Feliz, a house built in 1933 created to resemble a 100-year-old Spanish farmhouse --inspired by the homes seen in Andalucía, Spain.

“James Gamble Rogers II did design other buildings but he was not a cookie-cutter architect,” historic preservation consultant Christine Dalton said.

The house, whose original owner was Robert Bruce Barbour, a Massachusetts industrialist, has a look of old age. Among it’s architectural details are broken arches to the side of the house.

“This was actually incorporated into the design to have the broken arches. A lot of people visit Casa Feliz and they think ‘Oh, why didn’t the people who restore Casa Feliz, restore the arches?’” Dalton said. “The brick walls are actually recovered from the Orlando armory when the Orlando Armory was torn down.”

And painted wooden beams in the back part of the house, just outside by the yard, seem like they need to get touched up. But that was the intention of the architect.

“People see the peeling paint and they say ‘Oh, why doesn’t anybody get up there, sand it down and repaint it’ and it is supposed to have that look of age,” Dalton said.

Casa Feliz was built in 1933 and designed by James Gamble Rogers II. (WKMG 2020)

The house’s significance dates back to its glory days.

“They had a lot of events here, teas and dinners and lunches and just kind of group meetings of people getting together for lectures, and they really invited the Rollins community into this home,” Dalton said.

Rollins College and the Winter Park community cherished the home as the crown jewel of the small town. But in 2000 it was almost lost to the wrecking ball -- after its 4th owner wanted to build a new home on the property.

“I think at that time we had already started losing a lot of historic structures in Winter Park and this building is just so architecturally significant so you tie in the architectural significance with the cultural significance to the community,” Dalton, who also teaches historic preservation at Rollins college said.

At the time, demolition of the house had already started but it was thanks to a Bald Eagle's nest that saved it.

“Being a protected species you couldn’t have any demolition activity nearby,” she said. “Once the demolition was halted all these people came forth wanting to make sure the building was saved.”

The owner gave up the house itself but not the land, so it had to be moved to a new location. News 6 was there when the 750-ton house was moved back in 2001, after the community raised more than $1.2 million to relocate it from Interlachen Avenue to Winter Park’s golf course.

The first floor of the house has a great hall, which leads to a library, a large living, the kitchen and toward the back, the dining room.

Today, the house is used as a venue for weddings and other events.

“I view Casa Feliz as an amazing success story because you had so many things along the way that could’ve caused destruction of the house,” Dalton said.

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