Lynyrd Skynyrd sang about "Sweet Home Alabama," but it's the Jacksonville, Florida home of Ronnie, Donnie and Johnny Van Zant at 5419 Woodcrest Road that's a part of history. The home, in a section of town that the brothers referred to as "Shantytown," is now a Florida heritage site.
A plaque in front of the ranch-style home will be unveiled tomorrow (Saturday) and in part reads: “Musicians Ronnie, Donnie and Johnny Van Zant spent their formative years growing up in this house with their sisters and parents between the 1950s and 1980s."
Todd Smith, who bought the home and lobbied to get it recognized, plans to restore it to look like a time capsule from the ’70s, complete with an avocado-green rotary-dial phone and a wooden console stereo with an eight-track player and several Skynyrd eight-track tapes.
Smith also plans to fill it with Synyrd memorabilia and then turn it into a short-term rental for fans.
Johnny, the youngest of the three brothers and the singer in Skynyrd, says, "That house was our life, that neighborhood was our neighborhood. 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. We didn’t have 700 channels like today. We didn’t have nothing but four channels. We weren’t super rich.”
Despite the success of all three brothers -- Ronnie and Johnny in Skynyrd and Donnie in 38 Special -- their mother Marion and father Lacy remained in the house until their deaths in 2000 and 2004.