State Nominated Kenilworth Lodge for National Recognition
SEBRING - One of Sebring's oldest and most prominent landmarks, the Kenilworth Lodge, has been nominated to the prestigious National List of Historic Places.
Lodge owners Mark and Madge Stewart recently received confirmation of the decision by the Florida State Historic Preservation Review Board, which the Stewarts addressed as part of a presentation organized by a historic consultant.
The nomination follows a three-year application process. The Stewarts expect their 84-unit property to make the national list within about six months.
No one could be happier than Madge, who serves as the hotel's sales and marketing director. She hopes to plan a party. I want the bronze plaque by the door!"
The Stewarts hope the designation will help to preserve the hotel. But there are some other clear business reasons the couple hope to take advantage of in the coming years.
The 1916 hotel's revamped Internet site will showcase the historical significance of the building, which Madge actively markets year-round.
The state review board seemed particularly impressed that the hotel has always been used as a hotel, staying open every year, even during the long stretch of the Great Depression.
Among its architectural features are its pre-hung doors - which were way ahead of their time. The building's Mediterranean Revival style was also ahead of its time.
According to Madge's research, the hotel itself has hosted a number of celebrity guests, including:
Perhaps the most prominent function hosted by the hotel in its early years of operation was the 1924 Natinal Governor's Conference attended "by all 42" state governors at the time, Stewart said.
- Willaim Nash, best known for Nash Motor Cars
- Actor and auto racer Paul Newman
- Former Florida Governor Raul Martinez
- Adolph Ochs, former owner and publisher of The New York Times
- B. Davies Warfield, president of the Seaboard Airline Railroad
- Samuel Undermeyer, a prominent Washington lawyer working on an oil investment case
- Syril Walker, the 1925 national golf champion in town for a tournament.
Between 1987-95, the Stewarts leased the hotel from the Wohl family and in 1995 they bought the property. Since then, the Stewarts have undertaken an almost continuous schedule of renovations.
Among the improvements made during the past several months has been the installation of a new phone system offering guests voice mail and data ports for the business market; the restoration of the floors and draperies in the Plantation (ball) room, the air conditioning of the spacious 4,000-square-foot lobby, and the air conditioning of the majority of guest rooms - all of which are now equipped with small refrigerators.
When the Kenilworth gains its national status, it will be joining a handful of other local properties and districts on the list.
According to Florida State University's compilation of Highlands County nationally recognized historic places, the list includes:
In Lake Placid, the old Lake Placid ACL Railroad
In addition, FSU lists a group of 16 buildings along the Main Street mall in downtown Avon Park that is considered a historic district, as is a group of 22 downtown buildings in Sebring.
- the main Sebring fire station
- the Elizabeth Haines house on Summit Drive
- the Edward Hainz house on West Center Avenue
- the H. Orvel Sebring house on South Lakeview Drive
- the Paul L. Vinson house on North Lakeview Drive
- Harder Hall
- the County Courthouse
- and the recently-renovated rail depot on East Center Avenue
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