Lost Treasure: Fire Destroys 105-Year-Old Winter Haven Residence

WINTER HAVEN | Granny was the strength, the nucleus, the center of the family.

An avid gardener and a resourceful cook, she had six children, 12 grandchildren, and one arm.

Her house — the one she lived in for 50 years — was built in 1908; Winter Haven was incorporated in 1911.

There are a number of reasons her house wasn’t more protected from decay, most notably because the city doesn’t have historic districts. The surrounding neighborhood, with houses as old as 113 years old, is not overseen by a historic board as it might have been in Lakeland.

In the wet air of a recent Saturday morning, Granny’s house burned.

A FAMILY’S HISTORY

Granny, whose full name was Eva Hart, bought the house at 333 Ave. A NE, Winter Haven, in the late 1930s. She and her husband had rented through the Great Depression, but were finally able to purchase property. It was an accomplishment, her granddaughter, Lea Ellen DeWitt says.

DeWitt’s eyes welled with tears recently at the thought of the house in flames.

“This was a tangible connection,” DeWitt said. “This is where my mother lived when she was 14 years old. This is where my granny lived. Now, it’s gone.

“It hit me hard.”

DeWitt has her own theories on ways the house could have been preserved. It may have belonged in a museum she said, but most importantly, she said she wishes Winter Haven embraced the idea of historic districts.

The full version of this article can be found here as it appeared on page A1 of The Ledger.

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