The Story of Citrus County’s Oldest House
The John Paul Formy-Duval House (Historic Duval-Metz House) is considered to be the oldest remaining and continuously occupied home in Citrus County.
John Paul’s journey to the Floral City area began with the story of his father, Jean Gerome Prosper Formy-Duval, who was a physician in the Court of King Louis XVI. (second half of 18th century)
Being a “Royalist” might have been trouble enough during the French Revolution, but Formy-Duval made matters worse for himself by using his connections as a doctor to create fake death certificates for patriots who appeared before a firing squad. His action allowed these individuals to seek new lives abroad. Duval then had to escape when one or more of the “dead” individuals were captured, and thus he began an adventure that would carry his family name to an area in Florida now known as Floral City.
Before John Paul was born, his father, Dr. Jean Gerome Prosper Formy-Duval (1729-1821), had fled to Saint Dominique, today known as Haiti, where he owned land gifted to him by the King. Jean Prosper’s new life as a planter did not last long due to a slave rebellion in 1791 that again forced him to take to the sea, this time in an open boat.
After being rescued by a seaworthy vessel, the group ended up in North Carolina. Dr. Jean Formy-Duval died there in 1821.
Two of his sons traveled on to Florida, and son John Paul eventually settled in a thinly populated area in what was then northern Hernando County.
John Paul had followed his older half-brother, Alexander, to Tallahassee. Alexander later was elected to the Territorial Congress. John Paul moved on to Ocala, where his first wife died.
In 1854 he married Elizabeth Ann Trantham and their first child, Mary Ann was born in 1855. It is said she was the first white child to be born in Ocala.
John Paul Formy-Duval moves to Floral City
During The War Between The States, John Paul enlisted at Crystal River and after his right arm was shattered he was discharged from service. In that period of time, he acquired land in what is today Citrus County.
An 1863 deed from Allen Munden to J.P. Duval reflects his ownership of Lot 1 Section 15 T 20 SR 20 E. J. P. built this house circa 1863. Before the upstairs was completely finished, he learned that his house had been built on Lot 2 of Section 15 instead of Lot 1; this location was just 1,321 feet (¼ mile) to the west of his actual property on Lot 1 of Section 15.
Leaving this house unfinished, he built a similar house on his nearby island property, now known as Duval Island. That house remained until it was destroyed by a storm in 1913. After his death in 1879, the Lot 1 Section 15 land that he did own became the property of his son-in-law, James Baker, and in 1883 it was laid out and surveyed by W. H. Havron, surveyor, and Senator Austin Mann.
Duval-Metz House originally built on High Ground
The Duval-Metz House sits on one of the highest spots in Floral City, well away from the low-land near the lake.
The land in front of the house and to the east was cleared for the planting of crops. Sugar cane, cotton, corn, etc were grown. Due to the lack of trees in the area at that time, one could anticipate seeing the Tsala Apopka Lake from the second-story porch. In the 1860s, it may have been the reason the porch-front of the house faces east, so the lake could be viewed.
Historic Duval-Metz House shows period House Design and Accommodations
It was typical of the early period of settlement, and up until the second decade of the 1900s, for cisterns to be a common feature of a home. The large cistern is located at the southeast corner of the Duval-Metz house. Its purpose was to catch the rainfall and store it for household use. This cistern is unique in that it has a central brick shaft. It is about 20 feet deep and is lined with cement.
Originally the kitchen was not attached to the house – a common home building practice to reduce the potential of a fire hazard. The north wall of the kitchen was removed and the kitchen building was moved and attached to the south wall of the house. The original exterior siding on the house can still be seen in the kitchen. Cooking was done by the Metz family on a wooden stove in the winter months and on a kerosene stove in the summer to reduce the amount of heat generated into the house.
Later Residents of the Duval-Metz House
W. H. Havron, the surveyor, lived in the Duval-Metz house for a time. As a surveyor, he, also, laid out the southern boundary when Citrus County was formed from Hernando County.
Judge Nelson also lived in this house, and it was owned by the prominent Floral City landowner Adolph O.F. Roux and his wife Carrie for an unknown period.
The Duval Preservation Trust purchases the house in 2011
In 1935, the Duval-Metz House was purchased from O. Fred Roux and his wife corrie (Eison) by the James Metz family, and it remained in the Metz family for 75 years through four generations.
The property was purchased in 2011 from the great-grandson of the original Metz by the Duval Preservation Trust, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation created for the preservation of this historic building.
The Metz family lived on the lower floor
Three generations of Metz family lived in the two downstairs rooms; one of the upstairs rooms served as a guest room with the remaining upstairs used as an attic for storage and a children’s play area. Individuals in town have related that they recall roller-skating in the upstairs play area.
The first floor South Room was the main living/dining area and it also served as the elder Metz bedroom. The bed shown now in this room was originally found downstairs. It was made for the senior Mrs. Metz by her son, Jim Metz after she had broken her hip and could no longer use a regular bed. An indoor bathroom was added on to the east side of the fireplace in the 1940s. Prior to that period, an outhouse had been located a short distance away from the house to the south.
When the Trust purchased the property, the fireplace was completely covered-over with paneling and wallboard and the ceiling had been lowered in this room. In the early years, a wood-burning stove provided heat and smoke was expelled via a flue attached to a cut in the chimney. In later years, the stove was replaced by a propane heater mounted on the wall. Scorched marks above the heater were prominent on the paneling and wallboard. It was fortunate that the house never caught on fire.
Duval-Metz House shows Knob and Tube Electrical Installation
When electricity first came to Floral City in 1913, the method of installation was referred to as “knob-and-tube.” There are numerous places throughout the house where that installation method still remains. However, it is not in use and only retained for the exhibit.
The first floor North Room was the bedroom used by the second and third generations of the Metz family. When James Metz acquired the house, a closet had already been built in front of the fireplace in that room and it connected with the back wall of the bathroom in the South Room.
There is no inside access to the upstairs of the house. Access to the second floor is solely by entrance up the stairwell from the front porch. A handrail was added by the Duval Trust for safety.
At the top of the stair, looking back to the second-floor porch, one can see the name “HAVRON” above the stairwell, referring to the surveyor of Floral City who once lived in the house.
The second floor was never finished. Some door and window frames are complete and some are not. The walls, floors, and ceilings are just as they were when the house was left by John Paul Formy-Duval. Some visible signs of water and termite damage are retained for the exhibit.
Also retained are the signs of children amusing themselves, even writing on the walls with chalk on the south wall. “Eula May Stokes” her name was written by someone. She later became Eula Amay Stokes Murphy when she married Buddy Murphy in 1940.
The north room upstairs was used as a guest room and for comfort, the walls and ceiling were covered with fiberboard. There was a factory in St. Petersburg which made a wallboard like the one in this room. The product was made of palmettos.
If you want to Visit the Duval-Metz House…
The Historic Duval-Metz House is located at 7801 S. Old Floral City Road (SE corner of Orange Ave./CR 48 and Old Floral City Road). For information about special group private tours contact the Trust President at 352-697-2999.
Since the Duval Preservation Trust has owned the house, it has been opened to the public for the annual Floral City Heritage Days.
Across the side street from the house is the Floral City Heritage Hall Museum at 8394 E. Orange Avenue in the Town Center. It is open every Friday and Saturday from 10;00 am to 2:00 pm. Beginning in February 2020 the second gallery will be devoted to an exceptional exhibit on the Historic Duval-Metz House. The exhibit is expected to remain in place for about a year.
Historic Duval-Metz house is open during Floral City Heritage Days
The historic Duval-Metz House is one of 6-8 historic homes on the Blue Banner Tour of Historic Homes held annually on the first Saturday of December as part of Floral City’s annual Heritage Days event, held all day on the first Saturday of December and on the preceding Friday night.