The 100-year-old Holden House in Bunnell is one step away from being on the National Register of Historic Places.
When Randy Jaye stepped into the historic Holden House for the first time a few years ago, he could picture Tom and Ethel Holden and their two daughters, Altajane and Eleanor, growing up in the heart of downtown Bunnell in the home at 204 E. Moody Blvd.
“As soon as I walked in the front door, I just got this warm, fuzzy feeling about this house,” said Jaye, a Flagler Beach resident. “The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Well, what a great place this would have been to grow up in, you know?’ Then I walked around the house, and it just has this warm, homey feeling to it.”
Built in 1918, the Holden House was purchased by Flagler County from the Holden sisters in 1979 after Tom and Ethel had died. In 1984, it was turned over to the Flagler County Historical Society to be refurnished with timely pieces and established as a local museum with about 1,000 visitors annually, Jaye said.
As an active member of the Historical Society, Jaye saw beyond the home’s local historical value and instead viewed it as a “national treasure,” in part because of its architectural significance.
The original Holden House is built in a craftsman bungalow style that was common in the early 1900s. Much of the exterior coquina rock and bricks are still in good condition today.
“I’m a historian, and I just absolutely know this is a historical gem — not just locally, not just state, but nationally,” Jaye said. “I just felt that this is a significant historical property that should be on the National Register of Historical Places. So, I took it under my belt to do the research, take the pictures, and then nominate it.”
Jaye said he’s spent about 100 hours since January 2018 researching the history of the home and the family.
“The more research I did on the family that lived here for a long time, the more I realized that they were a real active family in the community, and they did a lot for their fellow citizens,” he said.
Jaye combed through documents in the Historical Society achieves in the Holden House annex on the property, as well as through two boxes full of photographs the society received from the family when Eleanor Holden Schutt, the youngest daughter, died in 2017.
“After her passing, her grandson called because he wanted to know if we wanted any of her effects,” Historical Society President Mary Ann Clark said. “She had a very extensive collection of mortars and pestles, which I took a few of. ... I did get a few personal effects, which made me very happy that we finally had something that belonged to the Holdens in the Holden House.”
After getting County Administrator Craig Coffey to approve the forms, Jaye sent the request for the home to be on the National Register in July. Jaye traveled to Tallahassee to represent the property and speak about its historical value at a Florida National Register Review Board meeting on Aug. 9.
“There were a couple questions back and forth, and then they made a unanimous decision to accept it,” Jaye said. “I felt pretty good because it was kind of like wrapping up a conclusion to a project that I was working on for several months.”
There’s still one step in the approval process left, but Jaye said he’s hopeful. He expects to be notified of the official decision from the National Register in Washington, D.C., sometime in the next month or so.
Though Jaye wasn’t able to meet the original Holdens, Clark met the youngest daughter, who, like her sister, followed in their father’s footsteps to become pharmacists. Clark said walking through the Holden House with Eleanor in October 2005 was a memorable experience.
As Historical Society member Bill Ryan filmed the tour, each room of the house would bring back different memories for Eleanor.
Eleanor said she loved growing up in a home that was so centrally located in Bunnell, as it was right across the street from the original courthouse, her father’s pharmacy, the family’s Methodist church and more.
In the video, Eleanor described how her mother, Ethel, was told that there was “a young, handsome bachelor coming on the train from Palatka.”
“He heard about a Mr. Smith in Bunnell needing a pharmacist,” Eleanor said about her father. “So, he came down here on a train, and here were about three ladies with an umbrella over their head and their long dresses, and mother was the one that got Tom Holden.”