Local Stays: The Hollingsworth House

By Adam Spafford


As though standing sentry over the calm of Lake Hollingsworth, manifesting the august history of Lakeland’s centerpiece, the Duff home at 154 Lake Hollingsworth Dr. harkens to a time when the views from the magnificent wrap-around porch included more horses than cyclists and more citrus trees than neighbors. Built in 1907, the home is ostensibly the first near the shores of the lake. Its early inhabitants could never have fathomed that it would become among the city’s oldest and most coveted addresses.

With only a handful of owners over the years, the home retained its character, eluding the enthusiastic modernization—including demolition—that’s befallen so many of its ilk. By the 1920s, Fred and Sarah Duff owned it, followed by the McClellans, then the Waters family who purchased it in 1955 and spent 30 years there. A five-year ownership by a doctor in the mid-to-late 1980s ended when the Shannon family acquired the home. When John Shannon died tragically in a plane accident in 2017 a surviving family member put the home up for sale.

Having raised their children just around the corner on Euclid Ave., Matt and Courtney Wade were quite familiar with the graceful beauty of 154. When they toured the home they quickly moved from semi-interested to fully invested. “We’re convinced that our offer was accepted, at least in part, because we were committed to restoring rather than tearing it down when there were other potential buyers who planned to,” Matt says. Since the property spans three lots, it could have been a lucrative opportunity for a developer. “We felt a deep sense of responsibility to preserve the house,” says Courtney. “It’s such an intriguing place.”

Of course, as anyone who’s ever purchased an old home knows, the work had only just begun. The Wades gutted the house to the studs. Although determined to recover its original form, The Wades saw there were critical updates that had to be made. “It still had knob-and-tube wiring as well as very old plumbing,” Matt recalls. “The structure off the pool had been a pump house from which the citrus was irrigated with Lake Hollingsworth’s water. But when we bought it, the roof was caving in—it was in rough shape. We were afraid if we tore it down we might not be able to replace it, so we refurbished the building into a guest cottage.” Now the main house and guest cottage open up to the resurfaced pool.

The Wades were able to salvage most of the original windows as well as the doors, floors in the main house including the porch, and both fireplaces. “The downstairs bathroom is in its original form, as is the upstairs bath with the addition of a shower done by a previous owner,” Courtney says.
In keeping with the spirit of the 1907 construction, the structural changes they chose to make were scant. “We took down two partition walls that bounded the formal dining room to make an open floor plan with the kitchen,” Courtney says.

So it begs the question: how do you do a tasteful job restoring a home like this without losing the integrity of the original, and giving a nod to its rich history? The Wades enlisted Kristina Jesse of Kristina Kreations to bring the house up-to-date with features that are new but appear as though they could have been there all along. The new vanities, cabinets, tile, and trim match the aesthetic of the outside of the house, allowing you to envision what it looked like more than a century ago.

It took a year but the result is stunning; dignified, strong, and anachronistic in the best sense of the word. The Wades, who moved into the house in 2019, credit Wayne Bunch Construction for the flawless execution of their vision. If the restoration was the end of the story, the photos might be satisfying enough. But the Wades felt so honored to own and refurbish 154 that they’ve decided to share it with Lakelanders and visitors alike. “We love Lakeland. It’s such an amazing place to live with so many wonderful things—Bonnet Springs, Mayfaire, Sun ‘n Fun—we thought that offering the home as a combination Airbnb and event space would be a great way for us to contribute to what the city offers,” Courtney says. Matt adds, “Not only can you enjoy Lakeland but now you can stay in some of its history.”

The property is well-suited to such a purpose. There is a large amount of parking space for events as well as an ample yard for a tent facing Lake Hollingsworth. The home has only been listed as an Airbnb rental since March, but it has had several bookings, including a baby shower. “The great thing about the combination space is that you can enjoy a stay at the home and also host an event,” Courtney says.

The Wades hired Amanda Bass of Leaf and Light Design to embellish the already stunning property for Airbnb guests, repainting a few things for an older, cozier feel, adding wallpaper, and even some more furniture. They’ve entrusted Brittany Burkett of Lakeland Hometown Properties (www.wearelakeland.com) to manage the bookings for both stays and events.

“It’s remarkable how many prospective guests have indicated they wanted to visit to sit on the porch—the sunsets are absolutely amazing,” Matt says.
Courtney agrees and adds, “People want to stay because of the history, too. It’s like a boutique bed and breakfast—chic, fun, and unexpected.”

Depending on your dates, the two-night minimum starts around $500 a night to stay in 154.

The Lakelander would like to thank the Kathleen Area Historical Society for providing information for this article.