TEATIME TRANQUILITY & TREASURES ALACHUA, FL
WILLIAMS-LEROY HOUSE HISTORY
In 1898, Furman E. Williams embarked on the construction of the Williams-LeRoy house, a prominent residence in Alachua, one of Florida’s earliest inland pioneer settlements. The completion of the house occurred in 1902, showcasing the deep connection between the associated families and the town’s origins.
Furman E. Williams, together with his brothers, played a pivotal role in establishing the town of Alachua. His nephew, Henry N. LeRoy, emerged as a significant businessman and influential local politician.
During the 1860s, the Williams brothers acquired substantial portions of land in the Elochaway district. Furman, in particular, owned land where a new railroad depot was established in the 1880s. Taking advantage of the influx of people to the depot, Furman sold his land in one-acre plots, reserving the best for his various businesses, including phosphate mining, a general store, and the Bank of Alachua.
Around 1866, Ida, Furman Williams’ future wife, relocated from Kentucky to Alachua. She had been caring for her 5-year-old nephew, Henry LeRoy, who had been orphaned as a toddler. By the turn of the century, Furman and Ida Williams had married and began constructing their grand new home in the town center. The house first appeared on the tax rolls in 1902. Henry LeRoy, along with another nephew raised by Mr. Williams named Furman Smith, and the Williams family’s servant, Candacy Wilson, a fifty-year-old widow, moved into the new Queen Anne Victorian home.
During the construction of the house, Williams had a massive ancient tree from his Newnansville property cut down and milled. The heartwood pine obtained from the tree was used to construct the front lobby and grand staircase, and it remains a part of the home to this day.
Even during its construction, the house gained attention for its exceptional architecture. A report in 1903 titled “Southern Industry” described Alachua’s private residences as among the best in the county, including Mr. Williams’ residence, which featured amenities like acetylene gas and water works.
Sadly, Furman Williams passed away suddenly in 1905, the same year the house was completed. His death was deeply felt by the community, as he was known as a well-respected businessman and an enterprising spirit. The funeral took place at his residence, and he was laid to rest in Newnansville Cemetery. His gravestone inscription read:
Living he made the poor man’s heart glad And at his death the sorrowing ones more sad.
In June 1905, good news returned to the Williams household with the marriage of Henry LeRoy and Eliza Dell. Henry was regarded as a leading young man in Alachua and a member of Williams Company, the firm he ran with his uncle Furman’s brother, Jack Williams. Eliza, popular among the community, was considered one of Gainesville’s most beloved young ladies.
The couple welcomed their daughter, Blanche, in 1912, whom Mrs. Williams treated like a granddaughter. Although Henry initially worked in his uncle Furman’s mercantile business, he became a stockholder after Furman’s passing and continued running Williams Company. Henry’s business interests expanded to include farming, real estate properties, and a role as vice president of the Bank of Alachua, his uncle’s old bank. He also served as Mayor of Alachua for four terms and remained a city commissioner into the 1930s.
Eliza Leroy was known for her fashion sense and active involvement in social activities, while their daughter Blanche was reserved and quiet. As a child, Blanche enjoyed playing in a backyard playhouse that was an exact-scale replica of the Williams’ home. However, when the home’s outdoor kitchen burned down, the Leroy family dismantled the playhouse due to fire safety concerns.
Across the street from their home, the Alachua Woman’s Club now stands. Occasionally, a traveling fair would set up its tents there, parading trained circus animals up and down Main Street after arriving at the railroad depot. Blanche and her friends would taunt the young men of Alachua from the windows of the house’s third-story tower, back when Main Street was nothing more than a dirt road.
Blanche never married but became involved in her father’s insurance agency. After Henry LeRoy’s passing in 1969, a close family friend named Daurice Bohannon moved in to assist Blanche with her father’s business affairs. Daurice, an insurance agent herself, had previously been married to C.B. Bohannon, a former mayor of Gainesville and city commissioner. It is said that their separation came about due to Mr. Bohannon’s frequent business trips to Jacksonville.
Throughout the 1970s, Blanche and Daurice managed Mr. LeRoy’s insurance agency. Blanche passed away in 1989, while Daurice resided in the house until her death in 1996. The property was then sold to Daurice’s niece and her husband, Joan and George Sterovich, in 1998.
Today, the Williams-LeRoy house serves as a premier wedding and event venue in the Alachua area and beyond. Its historical beauty stands as a testament to the past and a symbol of resilience in the present.