Discovering the Mote-Morris House: A Victorian Gem in Leesburg, FL
Nestled in the charming town of Leesburg, Florida, the Mote-Morris House is a magnificent example of late Victorian architecture, brimming with history and character. Built in 1892 by Edward H. Mote, Leesburg's eight-term Mayor, the house has stood the test of time, surviving fires, moves, and changing hands.
The Mote-Morris House boasts two stories and a single four-story turret, which adds to its architectural allure. The house was sold by the Mote family in 1908 to Bishop Henry Clay Morrison, before coming into the possession of the Morris family in 1918, where they resided for the next 70 years. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 27, 1974, recognizing its significance to the local community and beyond.
The Mote-Morris House has a unique and interesting history, with its relocation being one of its significant events. In August 1988, Morrison United Methodist Church purchased the house and offered it to anyone who would move it. The residents of Leesburg rallied around the old house and raised an impressive $95,000 for a new site. On September 1, 1990, the 150-ton house was moved one block south and two blocks west to its current location at 1195 W. Magnolia Street from 1021 W. Main Street. The move was a spectacle, with over 400 people watching as the house was transported to its new location.
Today, the City of Leesburg owns the Mote-Morris House and opens it for public tours twice a month. It is also available for rent for special occasions, such as weddings and corporate events. The Mote-Morris House is one of only a few original residences remaining from when the town was platted, and it has undergone only minor changes in its 131-year history. Several bathrooms have been added, as well as a porch or two, but the essence and charm of the house remain intact.
Unfortunately, on February 20, 2018, the Mote-Morris House suffered a devastating fire, which caused extensive damage to the home. While the fire marshal ruled it to not be arson, a witness told police multiple persons were seen inside the structure between two and three a.m. Despite the tragedy, the local community rallied together to restore the house to its former glory.
RoMac Building Supply, a local building supply company, was hired to recreate the mouldings, wainscoting, wainscot cap, interior and exterior doors, the transoms, the trim around the doors, part of the hand rail and spindles for the stairs, fish scale siding, icicle trim, corbels and other custom millwork projects that were destroyed in the fire. Chuck Shoop, the company's Millwork Department Manager, oversaw this project, which was critical to restoring the Mote-Morris House to its original beauty.
The Mote-Morris House is a treasure trove of history and architecture, serving as a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the residents of Leesburg. The house's many moves and changes of ownership have only added to its intrigue and character. Today, the Mote-Morris House stands proudly, welcoming visitors from near and far to experience its rich history and beauty.