We have done extensive renovation and restoration to this property, always with a goal of preserving the home’s historic significance. What we love most about this house is its large grand rooms, period architectural features and the flow of the house. It is perfect for entertaining. As owners of a special event design company, we have had many opportunities to entertain friends and family in the Watson Home. When our daughter, Sarah, was married last year, we hosted several events surrounding the wedding in the house and garden and we have often used our home to host fundraisers for local nonprofits and charities.
Our home was built by M. Parrish, the builder/developer of the Northeast Historic District. This area was commonly called the Duckpond starting in 1928. He had purchased, subdivided and sold the properties of Highland Heights and was building this home for his family. The home was inspired by colonial American architecture and was styled after George Washington’s beloved Mt. Vernon in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Shortly after having the main Boulevard built, the stock market crashed and Mr. Parrish’s clients could not pay him for the neighboring properties sold to them. So, he gave this house to the contractor who had built the Boulevard as payment for the work done. The contractor leased the house to the University of Florida, and the home served as the UF President’s residence until 1953 when the President’s home on Second Avenue was built.
President Tigert and President Miller lived here during their tenures, and the home hosted many noteworthy guests including, we are told, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The house passed into private hands in 1953, and in 1969, it was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. Mark (and Mary) Barrow who lived here until (I believe) 2000. The Barrows were the owners who converted the carriage house to a guesthouse.
The house sits on a double lot, and the garden hardscape (including patio and fountain) was designed and built by the same folks who designed the gardens around the historic Thomas Center. The guest house serves as a lovely oasis for visiting friends and family.
BY ROBERTA WATSON | Photos by Footstone Photography