The Dutton House, one of the last remaining neoclassical homes in DeLand, sold for $40,000 March 31, after volunteers spent years trying to get it renovated.
The new owner, DeLandite Tyler Spore, is the next in line to try his hand at completing the process.
The historical house cost $25,000 to build in 1911. That equates to about $5.3 million in today’s dollars, according to MeasuringWorth.com, a comprehensive inflation calculator. Around $1.1 million in grants, plus more from donations, has been put into the restoration process so far.
Dagny Robertson, president of the nonprofit Dutton House Inc., kept the news of a possible new owner under wraps for the past few months, out of fear that the sale would fall through — as had happened in the past.
“Everyone looks at it, and they think that nothing’s happening. But it’s beneath the surface; there is constant stuff of me constantly trying to make something happen,” Robertson told The Beacon in February. “So, even now, with the thing that seems pretty sure to happen — like 99.9 percent sure it’s going to happen — even that has taken a whole year because it’s complicated. … [It’s risky] on both sides.”
During Robertson’s 18 years on the Dutton House board, she followed several leads to find funds for restoration. Robertson talked to individuals and Realtors who contacted her, reached out to companies known for taking on similar projects, including the Kessler Group, and talked to Stetson University and other local entities. Even after all the other board members’ terms ended, Robertson stayed and continued to check on the house almost daily.
Representing Dutton House Inc., Robertson finally sold the house to Spore, owner of the local business VirTech Systems, a full-service information-technology company that employs 17 DeLand residents.
Spore formed Dutton House Restoration LLC in January with the plan to purchase the home to restore it, after watching it sit partially restored and vacant for 15 years.
“In the early 2000s, my finance company was located one block west of the Dutton House. I watched it sit dormant for years, being subjected to vandalism while valiant efforts were made to try and restore it. This inspired me to pool resources to see it restored to its former glory once and for all,” Spore said. “Because Florida has become so litigious, the LLC formation provides the project with liability protection, which is important because of the past history of trespassing and vandalism.”
Spore fit all of Robertson’s qualifications for ownership.
“The most important factors to me were that the new owner has the financial ability to restore the home, has the experience to tackle a project this size, and made a commitment that the home would never be demolished,” Robertson said.
Spore, who preserved his own 1926 home, is dedicated to helping preserve DeLand’s history and cultural heritage through the restoration of the Dutton House.
“Old homes have personalities and require special attention to preserve their souls,” Spore told The Beacon. “I know from direct experience what it takes to maintain an old home. … What I learned from the past is that preservation, albeit expensive, is rooted in doing the job right the first time.”
Restoring the neglected mansion to its original prestige means renovating the interior, repairing the porches and maintaining its original architectural features like the grand staircase and ornate woodwork. Spore plans to do all of this and more through private funding.
“This was a major financial commitment, and was not entered into lightly,” Spore said. “Previously, this project was entirely reliant on donations, resulting in the stagnation you reference. That is no longer a constraint, and the project can now proceed without money being the limiting factor.”
According to the third-party appraiser who handled the Dutton House appraisal, the low end of the estimated restoration cost is $1.13 million.
Robertson is excited for the future.
“I am relieved that there is now a source of funds to see the restoration through to completion, and I am both hopeful and excited to see the realization of my efforts after all these years to protect this amazing home realized,” Robertson told The Beacon.
Though the ownership is solidified, there are still a lot of unknowns.
Currently, the restoration timeline is unclear. Spore is actively working on securing the property, acquiring renovation permits and securing bids from contractors.
There is also the question of what the historic home will become after its renovation.
In February, Robertson mused that it could be a combination private home and public space.
Spore also has some ideas.
“There are certainly some great ideas being discussed, such as a historic bed-and-breakfast or an event space. But it’s too soon to make that decision. I can assure you that the end use will complement our historic Downtown and, most importantly, ensure this building is preserved for future generations,” he said.
“I have complete confidence that the end result will be something DeLand will be proud of. Any end use that accomplishes the restoration of the property and retains its historic character is fantastic. I look forward to being in attendance at the grand opening,” Robertson said.
All the public can do now is wait for the Dutton House’s latest owner to restore it to its original glory.
A different view on the Sale of the Dutton House….
The Dutton House is an 11,000 square foot mansion that has a 1,500 square foot out building. The house is located on a large commercial lot in downtown DeLand. A restoration project began on the mansion around 1997 and from 1997 forward until 2006 the project was awarded grants from the State that totaled $948,500. In 2006, Volusia ECHO awarded the project a grant of $234,800 and the City of DeLand provided a cash match of $35,500. The total amount of tax dollars expended on the restoration of the Dutton house is $1,218,800. No other grants were received after 2006 and the project was never completed.
Fast forward to the Volusia ECHO committee meeting of April 14th, 2022 when Mrs. Dagny Robertson, who represented herself as the Dutton House Inc. boards president, appears before the ECHO committee following a letter she had written to ECHO staff requesting a change of scope for the 2006 ECHO grant and if the request was approved it would have allowed for the Dutton House to be sold to private investor friends of Mrs. Robertson Solomon Greene and Tyler Spore of DeLand Opportunity Fund Inc. and the Dutton house would be turned into a private commercial facility, possibly a B&B, and in turn the citizens would get a historic display in the common area downstairs of the Dutton House for a period of 15 years.
However there were problems, through Mrs. Robertson’s own admission at the time, she was the only active board member of the two noted for Dutton House Inc. and the original ECHO grant required 12. Florida Statute 617.0803 requires a minimum of 3 board members and I should note, to my knowledge no Dutton House Inc. board minutes have ever been presented that shows Mrs. Robertson was voted in as the board’s president or that shows all of the proper procedures have been followed.
Once a stir was created about the ECHO grant scope being changed so a private group of individuals could buy the Dutton House and profit from the investments taxpayers had already invested in the house, a last minute SECRET donor came along and re-paid the ECHO grant and the County agreed to release Dutton House from its original grant agreements.
There are so many unanswered questions and what I feel should be concerns considering so many of our tax dollars have been invested in the Dutton House and in my opinion so much just does not add up.
Why is it never mentioned that the Dutton House is in an Opportunity Zone that offers a great deal of federal tax incentives for investors? I would encourage everyone to Google “Opportunity Zones”.
At the previously mentioned ECHO committee meeting Mrs. Robertson explains she has had people offer to buy the Dutton House, however, each time when she tells them what would be involved with the restoration they walk away. Ask yourself, if you were going to sell a home, issues with it or not, would you just wait for people to approach you? In fairness, she did mention she called Kessler Group and that there was no interest. But I just don’t get it, Mr. Solomon Greene, one of the investors mentioned above, is in the real estate business and was once one of the Dutton House Inc. board members and Mrs. Robertson is part owner of a financial advising business.
Mrs. Robertson, Mr. Greene, and Mr. Spore have all, in my opinion, downplayed the value of the Dutton house. When asked by an ECHO committee member if the structure was stable Mrs. Robertson replied “YES” and said the roof is done and it is beautiful, all of the siding on the outside is done, and the windows are done but there has been some vandalism.
So I ask….
Who was the secret donor who provided the $234,800 that was used to pay off the ECHO grant?
Was the secret donor repaid when the house was sold OR was Mr. Spore the secret donor?
Who will get the $40,000 made from the sale?
Is it ok for a nonprofit board of three to sell off assets to an individual who just happens to be the board’s President’s friend without offering the assets publicly through a bid process?
Are there board minutes from Dutton House Inc. board meetings?
The Beacon’s article quotes Mrs. Robertson saying she kept the news of a possible new owner under wraps for the past few months, out of fear that the sale would fall through — as had happened in the past. Does anyone else find this interesting considering Mr. Spore was already announced as one of the possible buyers at the April 13, 2022 ECHO committee meeting and Mr. Spore even spoke to the committee?
And let us all not forget, most of the $1,218,800 million of our tax dollars were spent to help restore the Dutton House prior to 2006 when labor and materials were a lot less expensive, the bones and most of the exterior of the home are in good shape, the house is on a large downtown commercial lot that offers a variety of opportunities, and most of all the house is in that Opportunity Zone that offers some nice financial advantages for an investor.
$40,000 may just be the deal of a lifetime?
Link to the ECHO Committee Meeting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t70IKqGtAiY
This is very interesting and informative. Sounds like typical Volusia county back door deals.
Who cares at this point. Tear it down like the Putnam and move on. I don’t get why these things are preserved in the first place.
The first thing when I read this I thought the same thing. Not of course as indepth as you have clearly presented it. All of these people are intertwined and love to spout off helping restore or beautiful or bring needed change, etc. However, the town pays for their whims and they profit. When do we stop paying people to make money off of pretty ideas that never come to fruition.
I worked there when Peter and Sherry Warrick owned it along with the Ralph house as we called it