How the Villa came about
Once upon a time, way back in the 50s I remember chopping my way through the woods with my father, Dr L A Dunton, to see this beautiful lake. As it happened he bought that 160 acres, once a Girl Scout Camp, and began the arduous process of transforming it into what it is today. With the untiring help of his blessed father, Rev L W Dunton, a retired Christian Church minister, this process began with, of course, much land clearing. I remember hundreds upon hundreds of hours of picking up roots, piling and burning of such summer after summer at let's see, $.50/hr. The benefits of course was an "indian-like tan" and the privilege of seeing the transformation of many acres of Florida scrub into beautiful pasture. The object was to develop the property into a working cattle ranch and private "get-a-way" from my fathers busy medical practice. Until recently I could not understand why all of his afternoons and days off were spent slugging it out on the farm. This he called relaxation? As a child it made no sense; but now being immersed in the stress of my businesses I see the wisdom in such a diversion - quite the stress relief. The exhilaration of hard work. Being a man of many talents and a surgeon being good with his hands, he took delight in all aspects of this development process, from the construction of the original "A-frame", shop and barns to the eventual creation of much of the furniture and renovation of the existing building to contain all of the many design elements stored in the back of his brain over the years. I can remember seeing him make sketches on napkins in restaurants, on programs during church, collecting ideas from magazines and from his trips to Europe. And as i walk through the house and see the product of these sketches and ideas finally a reality it does my heart good. There just wasn't anything he couldn't do proficiently if he put his mind to it from ceramics and jewelry fabrication to welding and woodworking - truly a talented and modern-day renaissance man.
And of course there is no way that the farm would have been developed as we know it without the many years of tireless labor by Grandpa, Rev L W Dunton. He was a man of men, only wanting the best for everyone. After semi-retiring from the ministry he gave up an agrressive home building venture when his son needed his help with the farm. He too good with his hands, and possessing many "farm skills" devoted the remainder of his life to making Wild Acres into a working cattle ranch and much more. His daily smiles and jokes were an inspiration for working and for the soul. The Exalted Seasqueeze as he called himself at times was a driving force that not only changed this property but changed hudrreds of peoples' lives. Being raised on a farm as a boy, he was no stranger to farm life. Working with him was a joy from cutting and stacking loose hay (even though we had a baler) to working with him in his vegetable garden. He lived and worked on the farm for more than 20 years until his 90s when it just was physically impossible. I remember as a college boy i could barely keep up with him in his 80s. Memories of his morning and afternoon watermelon breaks, tales of his childhood and spiritual lessons of life I cherrish to this day. . Never to pass a hitchhiker, he would analyze their soul, acquaint them with Christ and often give them a temporary home on the farm. Every man and woman should have known this man and would have loved him
In the 60s more land was purchased bringing Wild Acres up to about 1000 acres. And soon after I even had my turn as farm manager for 7 years, trying to bring the farm up to the 20th century - using balers and implementing other sophisticated farm machinery. Managing close to 300 head of cattle as well as all the related equipment and maintenance that a farm requires is quite an experience to say the least. But the knowledge gained in running and maintaining the many types of heavy equipment, tractors and farm machinery was invaluable.
Wild Acres has not been without its hardships over the years. The horse barn which was the first barn built with lumber from logs milled from the property and where i played as a kid and camped in the hayloft burnt. and all because our caretaker was heating some rare turtles one freezing night with a faulty heater. (He is no longer with us) And what did i find on top of the burnt rubble? memories of my grandfather's teachings likely something of his.... and yes a hard thing to do...
In the near future we hope to better utilize our various studios, ceramics, jewelry, stained glass, metal and woodworking and offer hand-made items created at Wild Acres through the website and maybe offer classes in these various arts. There have been many residents at Wild Acres and we have been host to thousands of guests and we will continue in our quest to make your wedding or event nothing short of spectacular.