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Waits Mansion - Bonifay, Florida

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posted by Olin Gilbert alias Olin Gilbert on Thursday 14th of July 2016 03:32:39 PM

Please View Large. The following information is from Wikipedia: The Waits Mansion is an historic two-story Mediterranean Revival style house located at 209 West Kansas Avenue at the northeast corner of Tracy Street in Bonifay, Holmes County, Florida. It was built by lumber company owner George Orkney Waits in the 1920s for his own use. It features recessed porches on each of the front floors with fluted Doric columns on the first floor porch. White wrought iron fencing is used on both porches as well as along the two bordering streets. The interior features a grand staircase from the large entrance foyer to a windowed landing with smaller stairways on the left and right leading to the second floor. Until recently, it was used as a bed and breakfast, but it is currently being offered for sale.[1][2] In 1989, the mansion was listed by its street address in A Guide to Florida's Historic Architecture, published by the University of Florida Press.[1] Dianne Smith asked me to give what history of the Waits House that I know. My interest in the home stems from the fact that my husband’s father came to Bonifay after being discharged from the U.S. Army following WWI to work with his brother-in-law, Billy Whaley, who was the contractor for the Waits House. Here, Ed Tison met Pearl Meeker, the postmistress and former teacher who had grown up in Bonifay; they married and he made this his home as well. I understand that their first home was the little two-story house that sat on the corner just east and south of the Waits house which FBC had removed last year. In order to set the stage, you must already know that this area of the country is considered a pioneer area because of its late development. It wasn’t until the mid 1800s that this area was developed. The virgin pine forests brought the turpentine industry, followed by the coming of the railroad. The Industrial revolution brought about a need for lumber. Mr. George Orkney Waits, the builder of the Waits Mansion, as it has come to be known, as a young boy began working in lumber operations around Macon Georgia. A hard worker and a quick learner, he soon rose to top management. After his marriage to Harriet Pamela McIntosh of Dadeville, Al, he managed a sawmill operation in Cordele, Georgia. In 1905, he formed a partnership with James D Henderson of Sanford Ala. He and Harriet first built a beautiful home in Andalusia Al. The company purchased the mill in Caryville and in 1914, George Orkney began management of that mill calling it Henderson Waits Lumber Company. Because of the mosquitos associated with its nearness to the river and its swamps, George chose to build his wife, whose health was delicate, a home in Bonifay. The land was purchased from M.E. and Meridien Johnson in 1919 which is the same year Mr. Tison came to Bonifay. The architect for the house was a Mr. Ausfeldt of Montgomery, Al and the contractor was William Whaley of Opp, Al.(Jack’s uncle Billy) George and Harriet lived in the house for only a short time before moving to Bagdad, Florida where the company had a much larger operation than at Caryville. The Caryville mill was sold to Brown Florida company. She died there not long after their move and he also died in Bagdad, Fl James C. Waits, the oldest son of George and Harriet owned and managed a mill in Warsaw, Ga, but due to a fire, most of that mill was destroyed. He and his wife bought the Waits House from the **Henderson Waits Lumber Company and moved to Bonifay about 1936.** They had it completely restored and Maude brought many beautiful azaleas and camellias and other shrubs for landscaping. In 1931, Mrs. Waits sister died leaving a 2 year old child,Edward Shaver, Jr. Childless, Jim and Maude Waits couple took him into their home and raised him as their child. Here in Bonifay, he was known as Sonny Waits. He finished public school here, went to FSU; after an illustrious military career he entered and graduated from Tulane University School of Medicine. Then he went to Harvard Medical School in Boston Ma. for Surgical training. He died last year in Charlotte N.C. after a successful Head and Neck Surgery specialty there. Mr. and Mrs. Waits were very active in the community. He owned farmland and raised cattle. He along with Mr. J.C. McGee started McGee Oil Company, a successful oil distribution business. The Waits were active in community and school affairs, the Business Men’s Club, Boy Scout troops, and their special interest, First Baptist Church where he served as a deacon, SS. Director, and other places of leadership. Until recent years, FBC has had a Maude Waits Sunday School Class. She enjoyed entertaining in her gracious home. The community was shocked in 1948 when Mr. James C. Waits died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.( point out the copy of the obituary from Blackburn Funeral Home and the Newspaper article.) Prior to his death, the house had been converted into apartments and many young couples made their home there. Some that I can recall are my Aunt and Uncle Lela and Edward Harris, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Barker, Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Whitehead and many others. At the time of Mrs. Waits’ death in 1956, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hall, Deena and Robert lived there. Because of Sonny’s choice of medical specialty, living in a metropolitan area was a necessity so he sold the house to the Halls and they lived there and managed the rentals for a number of years. After that time, several people have bought it. Jennifer Rich’s grandmother, Dorothy Garver, bought it about 1976 and restored it to a one-family residence. But she only lived there a short time. The most recent owner was Frank Barone who along with Jill Hardy Eichman operated it as a place for lodging and party or wedding venues. Mr. Sidney Waits a grandson of the builder of the house, George Orkney & Harriet, lives in Andalusia, Al and has pleasant memories of visiting in the Waits home. He is very involved in historical preservation in Andalusia and has been very concerned about the rescue and restoration of the house here. He is in his 90’s now, but he sent a person here to inspect the house last year. Son Chance was a good friend of Sonny Waits and has recollections of their playing at the house. He also recalled how Mr. Waits took an interest in Sonny’s education and quizzed them at the table on school subjects. Son, not a serious scholar, was embarrassed because he hadn’t studied the lesson Mr. Waits was quizzing him on. I am pleased to tell you that Don Smith who grew up in The Bethlehem community and graduated from High school there, one of my husband’s former students, has purchased the home. Restoration work has already begun including replacement of the basement sump pump and three heating and cooling units. I didn’t learn what their plans for the house are. I invited his wife Rita to come with me tonight, but she is experiencing a bout with a bug and had to decline. Much of the information in this is from the article that I was able to get from Sonny for the HERITAGE OF HOLMES COUNTY which we published in 2002. Mr Sidney Waits indicated to me that Jim Waits came to Bonifay because Brown Florida Company had defaulted on their loan, and the younger Mr. Waits came to Bonifay to close out the mill in Caryville.]



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