Van Zant Family Home Designated Florida Heritage Site
The Jacksonville house that was once home to siblings Donnie, Johnny and Ronnie Van Zant — years before they'd achieve stardom and multi-platinum success as frontmen for Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special — has earned heritage site status thanks to the efforts of a local entrepreneur who plans to turn it into a vacation rental destination for fans.
The Palm Beach Post reports on the plans for the Van Zant home, which was purchased by Jacksonville Beach resident Todd Smith. The first phase included the heritage site designation, which is reflected by a plaque that commemorates the decades the siblings spent in the house as well as their "prodigious contribution to the world of rock music." With that established, plans call for the home to be redecorated in '70s period style, "complete with an avocado-green rotary-dial phone and a wooden console stereo with an eight-track player and several Skynyrd eight-tracks that still sound just fine."
Those touches aren't strictly for show. Although he admits that the area "doesn’t exactly scream vacation," Smith outlined plans to rent the place out to anyone who might want to spend a few nights where the singing siblings grew up — a group that seems likely to include some of the gawkers who've made pilgrimages to the house during the time Smith's spent working on it. "You’ll see them pull up real slow and look at the house. They’ll drive around the block a couple times, pull back up at the driveway," he pointed out. "I say, ‘Come on in.’"
Whatever ends up coming of those efforts, Smith's work has already earned the approval of Johnny Van Zant, who followed his older brothers into the family business when he embarked on a solo recording career that ultimately saw him stepping in as the singer for a reconstituted Lynyrd Skynyrd a decade after the deaths of multiple band members in a tragic plane crash. "That house was our life, that neighborhood was our neighborhood," Van Zant told the paper. "We all learned how to play drums in that house, we all learned how to swing on the swing set out there — that’s where we learned to sing."
Words of encouragement also came from Gene Odom, a local family friend who worked for Lynyrd Skynyrd and has been known to lead fan tours that include visits to the house. Asked whether Ronnie Van Zant would appreciate the activity surrounding the property — which you can check out at in a photo gallery — Odom was unequivocal. "Certainly. That’s what he came from," he nodded. "He was proud of that neighborhood. He would be mighty proud."