After searching for months to locate just the right house they could restore and call home, Riz and Susan Rizzo found it at 422 N Florida. Situated on a rise behind Stetson University's campus, this regal 3000+ square-foot 1905 three-story frame house has entered a new phase of its long and fascinating life thanks to its present owners.
The property on which the house is situated was once owned by Henry A. DeLand, founder of the city, and then Lincoln Hulley, former Stetson president. The builder of the house is unknown although he did leave a bit of evidence regarding his trade-a handful of rusty nails in a little alcove behind the fireplace. Besides the nails, the Rizzos unearthed a few more items during restoration-cooking utensils, marbles, Chinese pottery, a toy wooden ball, and two sets of eight-foot pocket doors sealed behind molding.
Decades earlier the third floor of this stately dwelling was used as a dormitory for Stetson students. They had a toilet and sink in a small closet but had to bathe on the second floor. The apartment also included a small kitchen which still had its equipment intact when the Rizzos purchased the home.
Fortunately for the Rizzos, the house did now lose much of its original charm, character, or historic architectural details. Intact were the original hardware, doors, molding, horse-hair plaster, several light fixtures, wavy glass windows, and magnificent heart of pine flooring. The only change to the house in a hundred years was a rear two-story addition completed in the 1920s and used for rental income.
The Rizzos worked on their home for almost three years, lovingly recapturing its 1905 charm. They peeled layer upon layer of wallpaper from the walls. They scraped and painted inside and out, stripped interior woodwork, re-plumbed and re-wired, refinished the floors, re-roofed, added central air and heat on the second and third floors, paved a drive and patio, landscaped, and added a new deck and staircase to the second floor. Future plans include remodeling the kitchen, restoring the original tool shed, and creating a playroom on the third floor.
Often we hear of "happy hauntings" in old houses as Riz describes their uninvited but friendly "visitors." Their electrician claims that his voltage meter surged several times while he was working in the downstairs foyer and that he heard loud noises when he was the only person in the house. Several other friends have experienced "happenings" while visiting. Not only do the Rizzos often hear women's voices, they also believe a "ghostly" small dog wanders the premises.
If the walls of this old house could talk, imagine what tales they would spin. And what would the former owners say of the loving restoration achievement Riz and Susan have done on their house? But especially, what would a previous owner, a Chinese missionary, say if she could see a cozy room now painted pink and white and filled with baby furniture and toys and a little Chinese doll? Imagine her surprise if she knew that the nursery is ready for its newest occupant, a baby from China, whom the Rizzos will be flying across the globe to bring home.