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Historic Stetson Mansion in DeLand to hit the market this weekend

The owners of the Historic Stetson Mansion are selling the popular tourist attraction/wedding venue.

One of Florida's most historic Gilded Age mansions and top tourist attractions is on the market as of Saturday.

Eleven years after they bought the Stetson Mansion and led a multi-million restoration, JT Thompson and Michael Solari are listing the mansion and wedding venue complex for $3.2 million.

"Our love and our desire was to save the mansion," Thompson told GrowthSpotter. Now they both feel it's time for them to take a respite and allow a new owner who can "take it to the next level."

The 2.3-acre, 4-building gated complex includes the original summer home of legendary hat maker John B. Stetson and his family. Built in 1886, the three-story mansion has 8,500 square feet of living space. It's located west of the DeLand city limits on Camphor Lane.

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The home has six working fireplaces. Each of the 16 rooms features a different pattern of intricate, hand-laid parquet fllors.  All of the furnishings and Christmas decorations are included in the sale.
The home has six working fireplaces. Each of the 16 rooms features a different pattern of intricate, hand-laid parquet fllors.  All of the furnishings and Christmas decorations are included in the sale. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda / Orlando Sentinel)

The main house features nine bedroom suites and 13 bathrooms, two professional kitchens plus three additional kitchen areas and its own coffee bar.

The mansion has six working gas fireplaces, a library/music room with an imported antique French windowed partition, and intricately-inlaid parquet wood floors throughout the first two floors. Original leaded and stained-glass windows have been meticulously preserved.

The owners added a newly constructed 3-car carriage house with an upstairs studio apartment that blends seamlessly with the 130-year-old structure.

Veronica Malolos and CCIM President Robin Webb of NAIRealvest have the exclusive listing. They said this mansion presents a unique opportunity because its level of craftsmanship and original detail is unparalleled.

"It's special because it's a nationally known historical attraction, with a positive cash flow," Malolos told GrowthSpotter. "For me personally, I treat it as special. I want to make sure I get the right buyer for the property – not just a buyer."

The carved mahogany grand staircase is bejeweled with crystal chandeliers and stained glass windows. Thomas Edison was a personal friend of the Stetson family and oversaw the design and installation of the home's electrical system.
The carved mahogany grand staircase is bejeweled with crystal chandeliers and stained glass windows. Thomas Edison was a personal friend of the Stetson family and oversaw the design and installation of the home's electrical system. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda / Orlando Sentinel)

She said they priced the complex using an income-based approach, with an 8 percent cap rate based on projected income and expenses for 2017.

"The income potential could certainly be substantially higher, depending on what new uses the buyer wants," Malolos said.

Ideally, they're looking for a buyer with experience in the attractions and events industry, who can market the venue nationally and internationally.

Thompson said he and Solari are expanding the wedding business and pre-booking for 2017. The mansion was featured in The Knot and on Visit Florida's wedding homepage. A new owner could create additional revenue streams, such as a gift shop or cafe, he said.

"A lot of people talk about a B&B or turning it into something that would welcome overnight stays, but to be honest with you there's much more money in the events and tours," he said. "The tours are easier and much more profitable. The growth potential is much greater – and its established."

The property has both residential and commercial zoning. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but is not a Historic Landmark or in a local district. That's key, Solari said, because it means the new owner will have the flexibility to expand the business and alter the building.

"There are no restrictions even though this is a historic site," he said. "You can even change the architecture – and that's really important for someone interested in buying this."

They bought the property in 2005 for $565,000. At the time, the house was still a fully private residence with a small antique shop operating out of the former school building. It was in desperate need of repair, and Thompson and Solari embarked on an ambitious floor-to-ceiling restoration.

The Stetson Mansion has been featured as a top wedding venue by Visit Florida and in The Knot.
The Stetson Mansion has been featured as a top wedding venue by Visit Florida and in The Knot. (Jessica Connery c/o Stetson Mansion)

"Initially the pros, the ones who know much more than we do, told us it would be a five- to seven-year restoration," Thompson said. "We completed it in 20 months. It was seven days a week, 18 hours a day -- nonstop."

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The original goal wasn't to create a revenue-generating business, but the house evolved into a popular tour stop, especially for its annual Christmas Spectacular home tour.

In 2014, TripAdvisor and Parade Magazine named the Stetson Mansion as "Florida's most popular tourist attraction" based on visitor reviews. This year the travel website added the designations "Top 10 Things To Do in Florida."

The mansion welcomes around 13,000 visitors a year for home tours and serves as a wedding and event venue, with private guest cottage in the converted historic schoolhouse.

"The great thing about the schoolhouse is you have all the original charm with the 15-foot Polynesian ceilings and original windows, but then you have the possibility of the bride and/or grooms to get ready in there," Thompson said.

They've also used the space to host teas, lectures, corporate events and even yoga retreats. The 2.3-acre site also features numerous private gardens, a swimming pool, a gazebo and a three-hole putting green.

"Whoever comes here, not only are they getting an established business, they're getting a magnificent estate with millions of dollars of restoration and everything you see in it today – including $200,000 worth of beautiful Christmas decorations and all the furniture – it all stays with the mansion," Thompson said.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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