City of Auburndale, Fl Government
THE BAYNARD HOUSE IS A HISTORIC GIFT FOR THE PRESENT!
We travel back to December 7th, 2023. A crowd gathers near the Historic Train Depot. Everyone is talking about the upcoming Christmas tree lighting. Across the street, the Baynard House celebrates the Christmas season with us. It is dressed in bows, tinsel, glitter, and glam. Before the Christmas tree lighting, we had the chance to tour this historic home!
Walking there, we discuss brief portions of the home’s story. In 1894, a young Ephraim M. Baynard left his native South Carolina to visit his sister Josephine in Auburndale, Florida. Here he met 18-year-old Nettie Lee Brook. The young couple married in the Hampton House (a hotel near where the present day Shake Shoppe is located; the hotel burned down). Tragically, major fires destroyed Downtown Auburndale. Mr. Baynard contributed toward rebuilding the new Downtown with brick structures. The Baynard House survived these fires. In 1933, Mr. Baynard passed away in Auburndale.
Baynard House in 1907
The Baynards raised two daughters in this home. The girls went to grammar school in Auburndale; however, there was not a local high school yet. Therefore, the Baynards sent their girls to a boarding school far away.
Some of the over 200 students who helped restore the Baynard House.
Though it may look like a dash of magic was used to preserve the historic home, this is not so. It is the product of dedicated volunteers and community members. In the 1990’s, a massive preservation operation was undertaken by staff, volunteers, and student-volunteers from Auburndale High School (the local school that Mr. Baynard surely would have been esteemed to send his children to). Today, Baynard House is owned by the City of Auburndale and cared for by the Baynard House Committee.
This long history of preservation is the reason why the Baynard House greets us tonight in rich Christmas dazzle. The house glows with a welcoming warmth as the sun sets over the horizon.
As we enter through the front door, we wonder what it must have been like to own such a grand house. Tonight, Cindy Hummel has the chance to enthusiastically greet us. How would you have greeted guests? After a few words of well wishes, we sign our names into the welcome book.
In a nearby room, a father tells his child “Not to touch” the elegant piano. The child snaps her fingers back, mere inches away from the piano’s keys, her eyes beaming with surprise in a wildly silly expression.
Her siblings laugh heartily, the young girl follows suit, and the father can’t help but chuckle.
Seeing this humorous scene, we get a chance to speak with the dad. He comments, “I’ve grown up in Auburndale but never been to the Baynard House. Being here gives you another perspective about the people who built our hometown, and now it makes me want to leave behind a good legacy too… that’s why I wish I had visited sooner. It is an odd feeling thinking about how my children will one day grow up, followed by their children, and so on, and all those generations will analyze how I lived.” Thank you for the resounding words, sir!
We pause for a moment in the dining room. A Christmas tree shines bright, along with holly, tinsel, twinkling candles, and a treasure trove of Christmas delights. The dining room table is beautifully prepared, perhaps in preparation for a lovely holiday meal. Wrapped gifts sit under the tree. You can hear the small eager steps of children upstairs, excitement brimming from all the holiday festivities.
We venture upstairs to the bedrooms. Many artifacts, including a historic typewriter, dresses, dressers, beds, and more, stand as if the Baynards had left their home only months ago. This home is an active time capsule that invites residents and guests to explore local history.
The Baynard House Committee, tonight consisting of a group of ladies who are full of laughter and good cheer, is instrumental in protecting the heritage and history. We were able to see this firsthand as we spoke with Cindy Hummel, Zelda West, Lynda Moore, and Evelyn Pearce.
From Left to Right: Evelyn Pearce, Zelda West, Lynda Moore, and Cindy Hummel
After a marvelous tour, we wave to our friendly neighbors about to enter through the front door where we had started our journey. The Baynard House has transformed from a piece of Polk County history into an important part of American history. The home is a member of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, a national program meant to protect and preserve buildings of important American historical significance. Thank you to the lovely ladies who gave us a great tour! Also, thank you to all the volunteers who work hard so that we may visit and reflect within another era of Auburndale. Also, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Interested in supporting the mission of historical preservation for current and future generations? You can choose from giving tours, construction, the use of fresh ideas and perspectives, or another important way. Please contact Parks & Recreation at (863) 965-5545 or visit them at 119 W. Park Street, Auburndale, FL 33823. Your support will be much appreciated.
Published December 22, 2023- by Josh Starr
Group and private tours of the Baynard House are available by appointment: (863) 965-5455.
Want to contact the City of Auburndale’s Communications Office? Feel free to email us at [email protected] or call at (863) 837-510