We recently returned from a trip to the hot and humid state of Florida. It was June of 2017 and way too muggy for me, lol. Other than that, we had a really nice time, especially in the Daytona area. One day while in Ormond Beach checking out the Ormond Memorial Art and Gardens, we were able to do a tour of The Casements and Gardens. Sadly I admit that I had not heard of this place until doing research for our trip, however, I am so glad we visited it while in the area in June of 2017.
The Casements was made famous for being the winter residence of American oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. It is very nice but surprisingly smaller than I thought it would be. Originally the mansion was built in 1914 for Rev. Harwood Huntington of New Haven, Connecticut. It was named for the many casement windows incorporated into the design of the building. Apparently, this really helped keep the interior cool in spite of Florida’s subtropical climate. Of course, it has air now which is a lifesaver during the hot summer days.
We arrived a little early and walked around looking at some of the rooms and some of the brochures lying around. This place has all kinds of events, including weddings, yoga classes, Zumba classes, cooking classes. However, the main event is their annual Christmas party. They also have movies out on the Rockefeller Gardens. We quickly learned that the house and grounds were bought by Rockefeller in 1918. He was seventy-eight years old when he moved into the Casements. Happily, she led us into the day room and shared more information about the large hand-cut casement windows that adorn the mansion. They were very beautiful.
She then explained how the place was sold upon Rockefeller’s death in 1937 and that it was then used as the Fairmont-Casements School and Junior College, a rest home for a religious organization, and an annex for the old Ormond Hotel which was located across the street. Sadly it was unoccupied for many years until it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 30, 1973. A year later the building was purchased by the City of Ormond Beach in 1974. Today the Casements Guild members serve as docents, guiding visitors through the house. They love sharing its historical past and current uses by the city and the community.
We were able to see the kitchen as it is today as well as some pictures of how it looked when it was Rockefeller’s home, and what it was like when it was when the school-owned it. We also saw the studio where they do the yoga and Zumba classes.
There were many rooms with pictures and memorabilia, but one of the more amazing pieces was the floor and fireplace in the main area. The docent said the floor was over 100 years old. Pretty lovely, huh? Couldn’t help but take some pictures.
As beautiful as the house is, you have to make time to check out the gardens. Apparently, the Casements area was originally nine acres that stretched east from the Halifax River to the present-day Halifax Drive. It contains a private trail and right-of-way to the Atlantic Ocean. Rockefeller employed a Swedish landscape designer to develop the gardens to his own specifications.
Extensive renovations were done in 2009 to create Rockefeller Gardens. A promenade along the river entices people to stroll or take their daily exercise. An outdoor stage is used for weddings, and free movies are shown there on the first Friday of the month.
It is such an amazing area but looks more like a park than gardens, in my opinion anyway. We both commented on what a perfect place it would have been to sit and have a little picnic lunch. However, we didn’t have the opportunity as we had already lunch. We hope to the next time we are in the area.
Besides the amazing water views of the Halifax River, they also have paved walks, restrooms, fishing docks, a boat launch, and a small beach. We set at the end of one of the fishing docks for a while and talked to some people fishing. They hadn’t caught anything but were enjoying themselves on the beautiful, but hot, June day.
We also passed many people with their dogs and it made me miss ours. I could easily imagine walking around with them and watching them explore a new area. Maybe if we drive to Florida sometime we will have to visit with them and maybe catch a movie.
As I said earlier, the Casements and Gardens are currently owned by the city of Ormond Beach and are used as a cultural center and park. Located on a barrier island within the city limits, it is now part of the Florida Intracoastal Waterway.
If you are interested in touring the house, they offer free docent lead tours of the Casements Monday through Friday and on Saturday mornings. Please check the times on their website. You can tour the grounds at your own leisure. Like I said earlier, it is an amazing place, and I am so glad we were able to visit. Here is some more information below if you are planning your own visit one day.
Casements Visitor Information
25 Riverside Dr, Ormond Beach, FL 32176
Mon – Fri 8 am – 5 pm
Sat. 8 am – 12 pm
Tours are given by the members of The Casements Guild Monday through Friday and on Saturday mornings. Please check times under their Events page.
There is no charge for the tours, however, The Guild is grateful for donations.
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