Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Carmel on the Case: Historic Hassle
Marjory Stoneman Douglas is considered the champion of the Everglades. She was visited by a governor and honored by a president. Her home is an historic site, but you wouldn't believe it if you went there. For years, the home has been completely neglected, and now neighbors are questioning how the trust fund spends its money. Carmel Cafiero investigates this historic hassle.
(WSVN) -- Governor Chiles: "Hi, Marjory. It's Lawton Chiles."
Mrs. Douglas: "Why, Lawton - hello my dear..."
Marjory Stoneman Douglas was visited by a governor and honored by a president.
The champion of The Everglades was 101 years old when Lawton Chiles came to her house to sign The Everglades Protection Act.
Mrs. Douglas: "This is a very historic occasion and I'm greatly honored to have it occur here in my front yard."
And now that yard and her home are at the center of a dispute.
Neighbor Lew Freeman: "Our concern is that this historic property be preserved just like the Everglades."
Lew Freeman speaks for neighbors who say this priceless piece of Florida history has been neglected.
Freeman: "How would you describe the condition here today? Deplorable."
This home video shows just how overgrown the property became before neighbors started to complain and volunteers started to clean.
But there's still much more to be done.
There's even an active beehive under the roof near the front door.
Neighbor Richard Grossfeld: "Compared to what it was, its better than what it was, but in reality it's terrible. It's an embarrassment."
The State owns the property, but leased it to the land trust of Miami-Dade County after Mrs. Douglas' death in 1998.
7 News has learned that in registering to solicit donations in Florida, the trust reported revenue of one thousand six hundred fifty dollars for 2001 and nine hundred dollars for 2002.
The trust started this year with three hundred forty dollars in the bank.
Architect BruceBrockhouse: "This is where everything happened."
Brockhouse is on the board of directors.
Brockhouse: "We've done a lot of work..."
He says the trust has refinished the floors and windows - re-upholstered furniture and done electrical work.
But the beehive is now back for the second time.
Brockhouse: "Three people have offered to take them away and have yet to take them away."
And it appears the front wall has moisture damage from the honey in the beehive.
Carmel: "So, which is a pretty good indication that there's still a problem then? Brockhouse: Yeah, there may be a little bit of a problem."
But why did it get so bad in the first place?
Brockhouse: "Well, our thrust is to get a museum out of the house and that's what we're here to do."
And neighbors are uneasy about that.
They think the trust wants to turn their residential area into a commercial area.
Freeman: "They won't tell us anything that's going on."
Freeman's so uneasy, he's asked several agencies to investigate.
Meanwhile, Friends Of The Everglades - an organization started by Mrs. Douglas - is stepping in.
Juanita Greene, Friends of the Everglades: "We're unhappy to see the condition of the home."
Juanita: "And if it keeps up at this rate it will just sort of disintegrate."
Carmel: "The state may make some changes. A spokesman told me it appears the trust and the neighbors will never ever agree. But no matter who controls it, the state has the duty to make sure the history that happened here is not lost to weeds and bees and personality conflicts."
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