ECHO Board Statement 2022

Statement given at the May 26, 2022 Echo Tour.

I would like to give a summary of the facts regarding Dutton House. The history as far as I know it and how we got to this point. I joined Dutton House after the last grant was applied for but as the last person on the board who was here during that time I am left to represent it. First, I would like to point out at no point in time has Dutton House been misrepresented as anything other than a historic home that needed to be saved. This was clear on every application for every grant that was applied for. We didn’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Each application also made it clear that it would be for a portion of the restoration and each of those portions were completed except for the 2006 ECHO grant that was audited and then amended because the porches were not able to be completed. We applied as a historic house for funds to restore one of the last remaining pieces of DeLand’s golden area. We were approved for the funds. We spent the funds as applied for. Each of the grants was to take this project a step closer to completion. When the grants stopped the steps forward stopped. Which is where we are now.

In the 1980s the house was going to be demolished. A gentleman from south Florida purchased the house and began to restore it. He fell ill and wanted to donate the house to the City of DeLand. The City did not want to take on the restoration and set up Historic DeLand Inc. The board was awarded state grants and the restoration continued. Over the years the board lost most of its members and a new board was assembled and the name was changed to Dutton House Inc. This board applied for another state grant and an ECHO grant which was awarded in 2006. I joined the board just after these grants were applied for. The scope of work to be completed with the state grant was completed and closed. The $234,800 2006 ECHO grant scope of work included most of the exterior. Due to unexpected additional costs on the window restoration the scope of work from the 2006 ECHO grant was not fully completed. The clay tile roof and balustrades, widows walk, all of the exterior siding, and all of the windows were fully restored. The porches were not completed as initially intended. A full audit was completed and the scope of work for the 2006 grant was amended and approved by the county council. No further funds have been awarded to Dutton House Inc since the audit.

The funds from the 2006 grant awarded in 2007 were spent by 2008. The great recession hit and although we had applied for state grants and were ranked high on the list, no funds were awarded that year. We rolled over our application for several years until the previously spent funds were too old and no longer useable. At that point we had no matching funds to apply for additional grants.

We held fundraisers and attempted to raise additional matching funds to no avail and over the years the board lost members once again. Since then, I have followed every lead to find funds. I have had individuals and realtors contact me about purchasing the house. My reply has always been, if they intend to use it for private purposes the price of the house would be the cost to pay back the grant. After explaining the cost to restore it would be $150 – $200 a square foot or $1,500,000 – $2,000,000. Most never replied back. Some asked to see the house which I was happy to show them. Those few never followed up after seeing the state of the inside. I have contacted companies like the Kessler Group who restore old buildings into boutique hotels, Rehab Addict on HGTV to see if she wanted to take on this project, Stetson University, and other local organizations. If anyone was interested and contacted me, I replied, if anyone gave me a lead, I followed it.

In 2017 a couple from Orlando that owned a construction company that offered high-end renovations approached me to help restore the house. I gladly accepted and they began dropping off donated construction materials. At this time the ECHO staff contacted me that the ECHO board wanted a plan of action. I submitted a timeline and plan of action given to me by the construction company. The following year, the construction company decided to no longer be involved and walked away.

In 2020 yet another group approached me to restore the house. I tried to amend the scope of the purpose of the building from 100% public access to 35% public access to make the restoration financially feasible. This option was rejected, and the group walked away.

Dutton has been compared to the Stetson Mansion. This house is not like the Stetson Mansion, which was a beautiful home when the current owners purchased it. As you can see the Dutton House is a shell. The historic trims and details remain. The original layout of the building is still there but there is no electrical or plumbing. As stated earlier, the estimated cost to restore the rest of the building is $150 – $200 a square foot or $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. The notion that an owner could sell the house to make a huge profit is also unrealistic. The Stetson Mansion, and I only keep using this beautifully restored building as an example because there aren’t any other examples left in DeLand for comparison purposes. The Stetson Mansion was recently on the market for various prices from $2,000,000 – $3,000,000 and it didn’t sell. Dutton House is on a much smaller lot sandwiched between a gas station and a brick wall. I think it’s safe to assume it would be just as difficult to sell it at that price. Also, if the house was sold to a private entity, it would now be on the tax roll. A $1,500,000 assessed property would generate approximately $33,000 in taxes each year which would eventually pay back the taxpayers.

The purpose of Dutton House Inc is to restore one of the last remaining grand homes in downtown DeLand and for the public to have access to it. The tax dollars spent so far have secured the structure of the house, saved the exterior of the building, and kept the building from further decline. The roof is clay tile with copper portions, balustrades and a widows walk. Each window had to be restored by hand. All the exterior siding has been restored. As I mentioned previously, how the funds were spent were audited and the amended scope was approved. No further funds have been received since that audit.

After all the other board members terms ended, I have remained to look over this home. I check on it almost daily. I have repaired fences and gates due to trespassers. I have made repairs when vandals have stolen from the house. I have met with police officers when they have detained people trying to trespass. The final operating funds will be depleted this year and I intend to continue paying for the ongoing bills personally until this house can be restored. I and no other board members have ever received any type of compensation from the non-profit and only want to see this home restored. It is one of the last of its kind in DeLand and in Florida and if I don’t continue to advocate for it, I don’t know who will.

Fortunately, yesterday someone who shares my vision came forward to donate the full amount of the ECHO grant. I notified the ECHO staff yesterday of this new development and they assured me they would update their presentation to the board today. I will be submitting a notification to the ECHO board to repay the full grant and be released from the restrictive covenants. This donor is simply that, a donor. They want nothing in return except to see this home saved and restored.