They announced Thursday to commissioners that the place would be the historic T.W. Jones House in Milton, Fla. on Henry Street.

MILTON — Ever since Santa Rosa County closed it for good in the southeast corner of Navarre Park at the end of its 2018 season, the Panhandle Butterfly House has searched for a place to land.

They announced Thursday to commissioners that the place would be the historic T.W. Jones House in Milton, Fla. on Henry Street. The organizers purchased the home, originally built in the late 1870s and 10 acres of property for $125,000 from the Blackwater River Foundation.

The more than 3,400-square-foot house with a porch the length of the south side once served as the home of Thomas W. Jones and his wife, Alice, from the time they married in 1897 to 1951.

Jen Weber said the butterfly house planned to open for its popular Monarch Madness event in October 2020. Right now, it is campaigning to raise $500,000 for Phase I renovations to the house, such as creating a pathway that takes advantage of the Camellias the Jones planted there.

“It’s a big beautiful house with gardens,” Weber said. “It’s wonderful, great place for education and tourism.”

Weber has many projects she would like to see completed, like pavilions, gardens and other amenities. She said she needs engineers and commercial contractors, local gardening groups, environmental groups and even the Eagle Scouts, who she would like to build a small pedestrian bridge. Additionally, she needs painters to turn the gray house brighter colors.

Before the county removed the Panhandle Butterfly House to do $6.3 million in upgrades to Navarre Park more than a year ago, it had operated there since 1997. It drew about 14,000 visitors a year.

Mary Salinas, a residential horticulture agent and master gardener coordinator at the University of Florida/IFAS extension office in Santa Rosa County, said the Jones House “is a bigger and better location and will have more to offer.”

Salinas said she imagines the butterflies there for up to eight months, compared to the four months they lived in Navarre. People can view the butterflies in their natural habitat. For example, they can see caterpillars chowing down on their favorite food; find pin-sized eggs under a leaf; and observe a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. She also said some programs would be year round.

Kevin Smith, the Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful executive director, pointed out the Navarre location was a quarter acre, while this one is 10.87 acres.

“This is the best opportunity the Panhandle Butterfly House has ever had,” Smith said. “It has wetlands, uplands and pine lands.”


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Send to: 6758 Park Avenue, Milton, Fla. 32570