Mr. B. J. Donnelly was born in Springfield, MA in 1867 and lived most of his life in Swampscott, MA, near Boston. He acquired a vast fortune through ownership in marble, granite and stone quarries in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. His estimated wealth in 1928 was over six million dollars.
In 1929 Donnelly contracted the famous architectural firm of Kiehnel & Elliot from Miami to design a winter residence in Daytona Beach resembling a Spanish villa. Kiehnel and Elliot were instrumental in designing El Jardin, the Carlyle, Barclay, and Shorecrest Hotels, and the Scottish Rite Temple in Miami, and the master plan for Rollins College in Winter Park. Here in Daytona they designed the Princess Issena Hotel. Ted Paulson, who also built the Princess Issena, did the construction of Donnelly’s house.
Donnelly spent five winters in the new Florida residence, traveling from his northern mansion with his chauffeur in his Pierce-Arrow limousine, accompanied by his two maids, staying only for the months of January and February, until his death in 1935 at his northern mansion. During his stays in the Daytona Beach area he spent time with John D. Rockefeller, a personal friend.Records show that Donnelly left the bulk of his estate to St. Johns Roman Catholic Parish in Swampscott, MA with the stipulation that his cousin could remain in the Northern Mansion until her death or decision to move elsewhere; then the property would be sold, and the church would erect a chapel in memory of his mother, on the church property.
His will required that the Florida mansion be sold including all of the original furnishings, most having been custom designed and built in Coral Gables, FL. At that time the mansion was valued at $50,000. The property remained on the market for 11 years until it was sold for $25,000 to a Michigan family, who owned it until 1962 when the Mahaffey family purchased it and lived there for 30 years.In 1992 James A. Camp – who had the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Florida Historical Trust, and the Daytona Historic Preservation Board – purchased the mansion. At this time Mr. Camp established The Villa Bed & Breakfast.
True to its Spanish style, the mansion is textured stucco, with red barrel tile roofs, arched windows, wrought iron light fixtures, second floor balconies, dark oak beams, hand painted and stenciled plastered moldings, and stucco walls. The main staircase is clear heart cypress with white oak treads.The main house has 10 rooms – a center hall, main staircase, four bedrooms and four bathrooms, a formal living room, conservatory, kitchen, formal dining room, and a breakfast room.
The servants’ quarters in another wing have two bedrooms, bath, and sitting room. Located under here is a basement which originally housed the laundry and boiler for the heating system.
Above the two car garage is a self-contained apartment used at that time by the chauffeur.
B. J. Donnelly’s monograms can be seen in a cartouche above the front door and over the master bedroom arched windows. A coat of arms is located at the rear of the house between the master bedroom dressing and bathroom windows. Two massive wrought iron chandeliers grace the living room. All the interior light fixtures and wrought iron valances are original to the house. The mansion with its impressive moldings found in the living, dining, and breakfast rooms are the works of the Mizener Studio. The mansion, at 801 N Peninsula Drive, is one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture, rivaling structures in Palm Beach and Miami.
The present owner has beautifully and authentically furnished the mansion in keeping with the architecture of the period with massive sideboards, carved chairs and art objects collected to compliment all, creating a warm ambiance.The extensive landscaping includes a variety of tropical plants native to Florida, all of which have been enhanced with a new circular driveway and beautifully decorative fencing and entry gates.Located at the rear of the property is the original pump house, which housed the sprinkler system that was installed in 1929.The property is over an acre and a half, and when the mansion was built, one could see the river and the ocean from the master bedroom terrace.