From the Winter Park Historical Association Newsletter, December 1998, excerpts from Winter Park Portrait, The Story of Winter Park, and Rollins College describe Martin Hall: If one word were to be used to describe Martin Hall, that would would be impressive. The Hall was originally built in the early 1920's by a group of Winter Park businessmen to serve as headquarters for the Business Men's Club. R. F. Hotard was the Club's first president, Arthur Schultz the initial vice president. The Business Men s Club's occupancy was comparatively short-lived for the club-house was purchased by W. R. Rynlander of Orlando in 1925 for $85,000. Rynlander, in turn, sold it to John and Prestonia Martin in March of 1930. With the assistance of Sam Stoltz, an interior designer, the Martins remodeled and restored the property as their home.
Dr. Martin came to Winter Park and to Rollins College at the invitation of Pres. Hamilton Holt; he had been a contributor to Holt's publication, The Independent. A native of Lincolnshire, England, Martin was a friend of George Bernard Shaw and, like Shaw, embraced the Socialist tenets of the Fabian Society. He also befriended such men as Ramsay McDonald, H. G. Wells and Maxim Gorky. His wife, the former Prestonia Mann - daughter of a prominent New York physician who associated with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman - was related to Horace Mann, the educator.
At Rollins Dr. Martin was a conference leader and a consultant on International Relations. His lectures were so popular in the community and with Rollins students, that they were often transferred to the Congregational Church. Imagine two such power-houses as John Martin and Hamilton Holt in the small Rollins community at one-and - the-same time for a period of twenty years!
Martin Hall, as the Mediterranean mansion became known following his death in 1956 when it was acquired by Rollins and placed in service as its Conservatory of Music, is ambassadorial; from all reports, the Martins had furnishings befitting it. It is located on the east shore of Lake Virginia opposite the College; as one enters Genius Drive, it is the first habitation encountered behind a low wall and cast-iron gate through which one gains access. Three elongated windows, topped by colorful, semi-circular panels with Adamesque designs, accent the entrance pavilion.
Within, one immediately enters a great stair-hall which extends from a solarium on the lakefront facade through the full width of the structure. Standing in the center of this hall, one looks east to the great stair framed by a stunning pair of convolute columns. The entrance to the grand parlor to one's right is similarly framed, likewise that to the spacious dining-room across the hall. There are then six, in all, of these marvelous columns with composite capitals. Both dining-room and parlor have stately fireplaces; that in the former, manorial in concept, is of sculptured stone, that in the parlor has an over-mantel fully seven feet tall supported by engaged, volute columns which frame a decorative, ceramic panel. Spacious is the word applicable to these ground-floor rooms.
The western end of this grand hall leads to a commodious, glass-enclosed sun-room or solarium from which one gains access to a terrace and lakefront garden affording splendid vistas across Lake Virginia. A plaque on this western facade reads as follows:
"This house and its grounds are dedicated to the memory of Prestonia Mann Martin (1862-1945), wife of John Martin. Her memory and spirit continue always to bless it."
Beautiful is still another word descriptive of Martin Hall, Winter Park's most stately mansion, and the sentiment expressed above by its distinguished, longtime occupant. The College relinquished its ownership of the mansion during a poor real estate market in the 1970's; since, it has been in private hands.