A prominent Winter Haven family is opening a new wedding venue and event space in their grandparents' historic Georgian-style mansion on Lake Alfred.
The owners are four siblings -- heirs of the late Carl Strang, Jr., a former mayor of Winter Haven, bank president and founder of the Six/Ten Company. Carl Strang III is now CEO of the development firm, and Max Strang is an acclaimed architect whose work has been featured in the New York Times and on HGTV.
John Strang manages the family's citrus business, Gapway Grove Corp., which operates an orange grove on the bulk of the 91-acre Adams Estate property.
Sister Eve Bass told GrowthSpotter the new venture is a shared vision among the siblings.
"It's family business," she said on Friday. "It was our grandmother's home. She designed and built it in 1942. After she passed away, we moved our company offices there. With greening, that's taking a toll on everybody in the citrus industry."
Bass said she hosted her daughter's wedding at the Adams Estate six years ago, and since then people have called her to ask if they could host events there. That's how the idea originated.
First they had to make peace with the idea of welcoming strangers into the same rooms where they spent much of their childhood.
"We have so many memories," she said. "That's been one of the hardest things for me is letting go of it being my grandmother's house. But we're really excited about saving the house, and now it can be a part of other people's memories."
The family is already in the process of converting the main house into a special event venue with a wedding lawn that could accommodate up to 300 guests. "We built a beautiful brick terrace off the back of the house, which is sized perfectly to put a tent," she said.
The house was built in 1942 and has more than 9,000 square feet, including seven bedrooms and six full bathrooms. The bedrooms will be converted into bridal suites and dressing area. The kitchen has been modified to accommodate caterers.
Plans call for more than two dozen new guest cottages to be built over multiple phases. The first six units should be open by February, and the family is already booking weddings for 2018.
"There just isn't anything like this in Polk County that we've been able to find," Bass said. "We've been able to find historic homes that have been turned into event venues, but they don't have the overnight component -- having the cottages there will be what sets it apart. In a later phase, we're going to add a chapel out there."
Bass said she and her brother Max collaborated on the design of the cottages, which will complement the main house. Ridge Professional Group is civil engineer.
"The thought process was to make it a destination wedding venue," Bass said. "They'll have front porches, and parking will all be in the back, so it will have a nice neighborhood feel. It's not just for weddings -- it could also host corporate retreats and family reunions."
The estate also has a boathouse and swimming pool that will remain but won't be available to guests.