A $12 Million Florida Plantation to Live the Robber Baron Life
(Bloomberg) -- By the time Bob Williamson bought a 5,000-acre Florida plantation in 2008, he’d been a meth addict, a diagnosed sociopath (by the U.S. military, no less), an armed bank robber, and, for a spell, a prisoner in a U.S. correctional facility. He’d also, after turning his life around, founded 19 companies and made hundreds of millions of dollars, which was how he found himself in possession of an estate he described as “a sort of Gone With the Wind-style place.”
He’d patched the property together by purchasing several lots—he bought the biggest, a 3,600-acre parcel, for what he estimates was around $13 million, and then purchased a smaller, thousand-acre property for what he says was between $3 million and $4 million more. He built a large, white-columned house (hence the Gone With the Wind reference), a boathouse on one of the property’s two, spring-fed freshwater lakes, and meandering roads and trails across the land, which he used to ride horses, hunt, and fish.
As he found prosperity, Williamson also, in his words, “found Jesus,” a discovery for which he credits his subsequent monetary success. Now, in an effort to devote his efforts full time to evangelizing, he’s put 2,800 acres of the property on the market for just over $12 million. He’s also selling a separate, thousand-acre property for $4.7 million.
“I travel all over the world with my ministry, so it’s kind of senseless for me to keep it,” Williamson explained.
The larger piece of land, known as Honey Lake Plantation, is located in North Florida, about a 30 minute drive from Tallahassee, and is surrounded by other large-scale, private plantations.
“All these wealthy industrialists would come down here in the winter to hunt and fish,” Williamson said. “You’d never think a place like this would be here in Greenville, Florida, but that’s part of the charm of the place.”
The main, 7,000-square-foot house overlooks an 80-acre lake and has four bedrooms, four baths, and two half-baths.
Built in 2011, the home contains a large foyer with a spiral staircase, an open-plan living/kitchen/dining area, and more formal entertaining areas. It also contains a wood-paneled office, home theater, and a gym. The upper floors, which hold the bedrooms, can be reached by elevator. Directly behind the house is as horseshoe-shaped pool, which is accompanied by a patio and outdoor kitchen area.
There’s also a guest cottage on the shore of the lake, which has another three bedrooms, a fishing pier, and a patio.
Aside from horse stables and a chicken coop, the rest of the nearly 3,000 acres of land is almost entirely undeveloped. The property is stocked with quail, duck, wild turkey, and whitetail deer and has what the broker estimates is close to $2 million worth of timber (read: trees that could be cut down), but Williamson happily left much of the property alone.
“It’s like a national park, really,” he said. “It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.”
The second property, which is called Hooking Bull Plantation, is a former annex to Honey Lake Plantation. It has a small lakefront two-bedroom cottage, an eight-stall horse stables, and is stocked with quail, deer, and turkey.
Williamson acknowledged that he’s “taking a bit of a beating” on the sale: Even if someone pays the asking price on both properties, he’ll still be selling them, with improvements, for less than he paid for the land six years ago. Williamson is unconcerned.
“I’m trying to get rid of everything that makes me have to do anything,” he said. “I’m working on my ministry full time.”
To contact the author of this story: James Tarmy in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.