DeBary Hall is the recipient of West Volusia Properties "Summer Restoration Award." Built in 1871 by Baron Frederick deBary, a New York champagne importer, deBary intended his mansion on Lake Monroe to be his winter retreat and hunting lodge. And so it was for deBary and his heirs until it was sold in 1941. After several ownerships and years of neglect the property was donated to the state. Then in 1990 Volusia County entered into a lease agree-ment with the state to restore DeBary Hall for use as a museum and park.
Layers of paint were removed from the 130 year old house. Restoration workers labored to uncover and then restore the hall's original features. Carpet hiding the rich hardwood floors was tossed and walls were stripped of stained wallpaper. The house was rewired and replumbed. Finally the City of DeBary's grand dame opened to the public December 2000.
The eleven-acre historic complex includes the 8,000 square foot main house, an ice house, workers' house, and caretaker's home that originally served as the estate's laundry building. Interpretative exhibits tell of the leisurely life of the wealthy, their hunting traditions, and the cultural diversity found along the meandering black waters of the St. Johns River. A new visitor's center graciously welcomes guests and a trail from DeBary Hall to Gemini Springs Park is in the works.
In 1882 George Barbour, author of Florida for Tourists, Invalids, and Settlers, wrote of DeBary Hall: "Our party improved the time by going ashore and visiting a famous sulphur-spring on the estate of Count Frederick deBary. A fine residence, large orange-grove, pier and packing-house are here, the spacious grounds all handsomely fenced and improved in neat style, with everything elegant and complete. The spring is circular in form, about fifty feet in diameter, and is located in a pretty nook. The water is green as the greenest paint, and forms quite a good-sized brook. It is slightly warm, tastes strongly of sulphur, but is not unpleasant."
The site manager for DeBary Hall is Amber Osmun, a Stetson University graduate. Prior to taking on the existing position at the museum, she was education manager at the DeLand Museum of Art. Says Osmun of her position, "I simply love it. It's the most peaceful place to work and visit."
Operating hours are Thursday through Saturday 10 - 4; Sunday noon to 4. Guided tours are available during operating hours. The property is an ideal venue for special events. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children 5 -12. From U.S. 17/92 head south to DeBary, turn east on Dirksen Drive, then left on Mansion Boulevard.