Group Title: Mrs. Buff Gordon & Sally Dickinson
Title: Mrs. Buff Gordon and Sally Dickinson
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00024770/00001
 Material Information
Title: Mrs. Buff Gordon and Sally Dickinson
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Noll, Steven ( Interviewer )
Gordon, Buff ( Interviewee )
Dickinson, Sally ( Interviewee )
Publication Date: April 8, 1983
Copyright Date: 1983
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00024770
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
Full Text


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contact the
the University of Florida


Steven Noll
Oral History
April 8, 1983.

N. My name is Steven Noll. This interview is with Mrs. Buff

Gordon and Mrs. Sally Dickinson as a part of the University

of Florida Oral History Program project on Historic Preser-

vation. The interview is taking place at Mrs. Gordon's

home, 4401 NW 122 Street in Gainesville. It is Thursday

morning March 24, 1983. Good morning ladies.

D. Good morning.

G. Good morning.

N. OK. Mrs. Gordon, what is your background?

G. Well, I have a master's degree in fine arts; photography,

pottery, sculptery, sculpture, and um archeology, anthro-


N. How did you get involved in historic Preservation?

G. Well, I guess it goes a long way back to Connecticut when

my husband and I bought our first house. It was a house

built in the 1700s, early 1700s in Farmington, Connecticut

and we restored that and then Sally and I always wanted

to work together and we drove to Fernandina and discovered

a house there that was badly in need of tender loving care.

I think it started with that house about two years ago.

N. And Sally, what is your background and how did you get in-

volved in preservation?

D. I have a master's degree in music education, taught music

in the public and private schools in Alachua County, and

as Buff said, we found a house in Fernandina. I had con-


tracted our house that we built here in Gainesville, sub-

contracted that, that was really my only building exper-

ience, except for my father who early on taught me how to

hold a hammer. I tended to avoid those experiences as I

grew up. [Laughs And so when Buff and I decided to make

a break with what we were both doing, we had wanted to work

together, we started up in Fernandina, and we bit our tongues

and bought this house because it was a big project and we

were starting out as beginners basically, except for the

background we had.

G. Let me add something to it. I did get involved in preser-

vation while I was on campus. When I was director of Grinter

Galleries I worked with one of the campus committees trying

to save the old buildings. I did a lot of photography of

the old buildings on campus, started to realize the joy,

the beauty, the benefits of preserving and saving old

buildings rather than building.

N. W'-hat were your successes and failures with preservation on

the campus?

G. Well, I think, the successes, I thinkthat there's been a

basic agreement to save the old buildings that surround the

Plaza of the Americas. I think they're still fighting over

Floyd Hall, though. There are many wonderful ways to use

that building and it's just a matter of being creative in

the re-use of the building and the economics of putting it


N. Were you, um, on the committee that got the buildings listed

on the National Register?

G. No, that was before.

N. Why did you decide on Fernandina as a place to do your

restoration work?

D. Well, We're both from Gatnesville and there are a lot of

people in Gainesville doing historic preservation and we

felt that starting out in a new business, well, obviously,

we didn't have excessive capital and then we went to a place

where we felt we could get started for less money.' Our

initial purchase price on that house was less probably than

we could have bought in Gainesville and there's a historic

district there that's defined in Fernandina, a charming sea-

port town with a lot of history and we found a house there.

I don't know particularly why it was Fernandina, we have

friends in Fernandina but we drove past Starke, we drove pAZT-

other communities where there are historic properties and

we found a selection in Fernandina, found people very, very

pleasant, very friendly in Fernandina; its a small town

and it was an appealing atmosphere to start with.

N. 'Excuse me. What was th attitude of the community of Fernan-

dina at large about preservation? Were they concerned with

preserving the historic district?

D. Well, I think probably like any community you have the people

who are very concerned about it and go out and do a lot of

the hard work and the preparation. And then there's a .-'

portion of people who are interested in the process in a

casual way and there are people who really probably resent

having something like that happen even if it is a benefit

because it is a change. The people that we worked with in

Fernandina were very positive about it, I think that the

restoration of Centre Street, they stopped tearing down the

old buildings in 1973 when the district was formed. A

lot of change had already happened on Centre Street but the

ones that are left are preserved, people are now realizing

the economic value of having that happen and Buff and I

have noticed that as we've been working, the people around

us tend to start painting up and fixing up, too, their own

homes, it's sort of a mentality, you see something going

on that's improving something in the neighborhood and you

get out with the paint or the lawnmower or the hammer and

nails and fix clapboards.

G. We were first in Fernandina too. I don't think anybody else

had come in to restore old buildings to make apartments,

to find another economic use, a way to save it, particularly

on the Fairbanks Folly, it was so large, and it was just-

it was g6ing to fall apart unless you could find a way to

make it economically useful to them. As Sally said, there

already was an historic district so yes, the people there

were veryconcerned about preservation so that made our job

a lot easier. Since we've started, let's see, another house

has been restored now to Bed and Breakfast, a lot of other

buildings now are underway, and downtown, even in the two

years we've been there, it's been much more restoration (sic).

I understand before the district they had a lot of trouble

from the merchnats who really didn't want to go through,

a lot of people are afraid of something that's on the

Historic Register.

N. How did you pick the particular house which you decided to


D. (TLighs Process of elimination. We found a house that

we thought maybe we could handle. It was a nice, small,

old charming house just about the right size that you could

deal with on a first project together, our first business

venture together, and our bid was not accepted on that house,

and we looked at this house inside and as they said it was

built in the 1880s, and it was a big house, it would make

a wonderful restaurant, and it was just sitting there and

it was looking worse and worse, and obviously needed some

care, and we, we put in a bid on it and we got it and it

turned out, Ithink both of us feel, that it was probably

the best property we coul' have bought at the time. It

worked out beautifully.

G. We discovered a lot of exciting things about it too.

N. Which house is that?

G. This is the Simmons House.

D. Merrick-Simmons House.

G. Merrick-Simmons House. Just been listed on the National



N. OK. Where in Fernandina is that located?

G. 102 South 10th Street. Corner of Ash and 10th Street.

N. And that is in the Historic District?

G. No, it is one street removed from the Historic District.

They stopped short, there are about.., there are three

other houses there that really should have been listed but

stopped short because of time and I think money.

N. What process did you have to go through to get this house

listed on the National Register?

G. It is a very lengthy process. First of all, I think it's

a house... the main reason why it's listed is its history.

The town thought of it as having been built around 1880s

(sic) and always referred to it as the Simmons House. Simmons

owned the first ice plant in Fernandina, it was there right

behind the house in the backyard. We, one day, went in,

through all the old records up in the court house, up in

the balcony of the court house, we had to clii over piles

of papers that were destroyed by water, over old chairs

and desks that were piled up, through a lot of bugs and

cockroaches, and lice, and found all these rat-eaten papers.

Our research through wills, through court cases, through

ownership, and oral history too, talking to people, we

finally found out that the house was built before the Civil

War. Not only... the first, we can't get the very first

owner but one of the owners bought it when the, apparently

when the North came to Fernandina, a*lot of the buildings

were abandoned, people fled and a lot of the houses were

sold at auction. She bought this, we have the tax, the

deed, the number, but we can't trace who she bought it from

and who had owned the property beforehand but she came from

the North; this was 4Lowey L:-rrick, and she came down and

started an orphanage for, I believe, mostly .black children.

She was a fairly stupendous director of this orphanage.

Johh Hay came down and wrote a note about her back to

President Lincoln. She is quoted in many of the congression-

al, the educational records of Florida, by name, which is

very unusual. She apparently was very attractive, gover-

nor came down, he fell in love with her and married her,

this was Harrison Reed. She eventually became the gover-

nor's wife.

D. Let's see... one other place where we found information,

that was in the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at

the University. It was tremendous to have this resource

like that at hand.

N. OK. Then after you did the research on the house what was

the next step in restoring the house to its- Did you attempt

to restore it to a particular period of time or just to a

peeiod-looking, a period piece or did you attempt to restore

it to say 1850 or 1880?

G. Well, I think when you look ,at a building so often so much

has been done to the building over a period of years. First

of all, I think, that's very important to try to realize

what has been changed. How far should you go back? You

do your best to go back to as much of the original as you

can, for instance in this house, it had already been divided,

so many of these houses have been divided along the way

into apartments and boarding houses, they wind up in commer-

cial districts, they're really abused. This one apparently,

the plumbing was so bad that the last person that was in

it, they pulled the plug in the bathtub:, the water just

drained out a hole out the side of the building.

D. From the second story. t

G. From the second story. (Laugh/) In fact, the neighbors told

us they could tell whenever Vr, So-and-So took a bath

because water would flood out. So, money's also a factor.

You could go on and on with these and have to dtaw the

line somewhere there too. In this particular house, the

first house, very different from how we did the Fairbanks

Folly, but in this first house, we, we...the original kit-

chen was a separate building but somebody had later added

a kitchen inside so we retained the kitchen where it had

been added later. However, we did do things like we peeled

up ten layers of tile and linoleum and with our hands till

they they were blistered, and we used a hose to get it up,

hoses and shovels to get the ashpalt, the old glue up, and

the original floor was underneath that, it was beautiful.

We tried... we took all.., they had lowered all the ceilings,

acoustical tile, and we tore all that down and went back

to the original ceilings and the old plaster was still

there. Unfortunately, there had been a medallion in the

center of the ceiling, you could see where it was but it

was not there but we went through a great deal of effort.

to retain all that old plaster and I m not so sure that

it's going to be good in the long run, it's already starting

to crack agian. This is old plaster. It has a lot of co-

quina shells in it, horsehair, and we did preserve it, and

so rtght now you do see the old plaster. It's bumpy, it's

irregular but this is part of the charm. I think when

you're restoring, you're also educating people, a lot of

people come by and say why don't you sandblast the house,

why donlt you tear out all the old insides, all the plaster,

you know, why don't you modernize it? You have to educate

everybody that stops by and there is a lot of that. The

whole community, I think, stops by eventually.

N. This first house that you do, that you did, was this an

educational process for you as well?

D. Definitely, no question about that. In fact we really feel

that we were fortunate in doing a majority of the work our-

selves. We did not do the electrical wiring or the plumb-

ing. We did hang some of the sheetrock, we had some pro-

fessional work with some of it but most all of the finishing,

a good bit of the carpentry, Buff's very skilled with her


hands, she's a tremendous perfectionist in terms of work-

manship and actually she did a much nicer job of molding

than the expensive carpenters we hired. But, yes, it was

an education and we felt that we were fortunate to have

done most of it ourselves, because we then learned how to

... how to anticipate with having workers, the problems,

the expenses, certain materials that we should use; it

helped us a great deal in our second house and it is help-

ing us in our planning for our third house.

N. Did you work from blueprints or plans that you found in

the libraries or from old photos?

G. Oh, we do have old photos on the Simmons house. We do not

have old plans. They were not in existence. We do our own

drawings. But when you start to... when plaster is off and

you can see where walls have been changed, we do go back

to as much of the original as we can. The Simmons house,

it wasn't.that complicated a house, you could seefairly ..

easily the original layout.

D. I think what you started saying a few minutes ago about

you have to have an economic use for the place is impor-

tant. We decided that the best economic use we could make

of the Simmons house was to just make each floor be an

apartment. And we did end up opening up the attic. It

was nicely divided and for example in keeping things the

way they were, while still closing off a second floor, we

left the stairway and the railing are intact (sic). There


is a sheetrock wall which comes down and is very carefully

cut around all of the railing and so forth so that if any-

one ever wanted to go back and restore it to its original

glory as a single-family house, which certainly probably

isn't economically practical in 1983, they could do that.

And anyone who comes in much later and tries to trace the

way the house really looks isn't going to have too much

of a problem.because the original lines are still there.
However you do have to close"walls in when you make apart-

ments of a single-family home and we did do that but, as

Buff said, this house just lent itself to it, this part-

icular house has two lovely porches on the bottom floor

and a side entrance on the second floor, also two lovely-'

porches on the third floor.

G, Now Fairbanks Folly, that's a whole different matter. We

did interview a lot of the descendants of Major Fairbanks,

and they told us the use of the original rooms, because

there have been changes made there, porches enclosed, a

second story area built on; when you tore down the dropped

ceilings you could see this, you could see where floors

had been added or ceilings had been added on to. ..e did

... we tried very carefully, especially for the preservation

board, we tried to make... we drew blueprints to show what

it was like in 1885, what changes had been made before we

bought it, and then everything that we were doing, of

course, to it, so that they have a complete record.


N. Getting back to the Simmons house, the first house that

you restored, how long did that take from start to finish?

D. January 29, we closed on the house and we had open house,

was it the 22nd of Dedember?

G. Uh-huh.

N. So, just about a year.

G. Just about a year.

Page 13

N: And the apartments are rented right now?

G: Yes, they are.

N: So economically it seems to have worked out very well.

G: It has.

N: And right after that you started looking for another house in Fernandina to

work on?

G: Well, actually we can't wait til the end. (laughter) We found it half-way

through. We are finding that the most time-consuming parts is the actual

purchase, plans, financing, all the negotiations. Really were allowing two

to three months.

N: Okay. How did you happen upon the Fairbanks house?

G: We took a walk one night-- we were very tired after plastering...

D: Took a walk..

G: in Fernadina, and it's only a few blocks away. It's in the historical district.

And out of the dark in the full moon loomed this enormous decrepit building.

Obviously very dark, obviously uninhabited. There were vines, bushes growing all

over it and the porch was sagging and the paint was falling off, boards,

clapboards were falling off, so we looked at it and sad,OH, how can we-stand-and
let this building go, or how can history XJ this building so we made some

phone calls the next day, and found out that it was in an estate. This person
I rhtk hI l1LA)cl tL A SD THT Pr771S O"
Told udwho to call,Yhe came over immediately to show it to us. I think we were
loratic f Sf- 1I& I ciotvrt -
very ga tri sers. (laughter) We were met by a flock of pigeons inside,

a foot of pigeon manure, r~4 rats, cobwebs, the sugar bowl was still on the table.

Just filled with furniture. Apparently in her last days, Mrs. Hale, who lived there,

had problems, and she was very e- atid she lived like a recluse.

N: So this house was in much worse shape than the Simmons house?

G: Yes.

Page 14

N: And where is this house located in Fernadina?

G: At 227 South 7th Street

N: And this is in the historic district?

G: It is in the historic district, and this house is individually cited \

on the National Register. It's one of the few tha _ ___( .O --

N: How long did this restoration take?

G: Just under a year again. We signed on January 29th, finally, and....

had our open house December 12th.

N: And now it is being split into apartments and rented out.

G: Yes it is.

N: Could you tell me the same process you went through with the Fairbanks

House as with the Simmons House?

G: As Sally mentioned with the Merrick-Simmons House, th ./ was

also laid out. Very beautifully for apartments. We did not have to move any

interior walls. We added I think one wall. We did close off a few doors.

And because as you walk into this house you have a ground,foyer,entry, foyer

and so that yoju have apartments to the left and to the right, both upstairs and

downstairs. They don't even share common walls. So it was laid out-- costly

one bedroom. There is a two bedroom apartment. And Y took the attic which ,a

fantastic because you walk into the room and there is a trunk full of old clothes

from the -19js' iQ- t92iL. Farm implements. We turned that into a penthouse. 02 -

Basically it's our process is to go through and first thing we do is we make

drawings, we study it many times, many mea8sements, many drawings. Just where are

you going to put bathrooms or kitchens or offices? It really is a challenge to

put these in. And then we run many estimates. We always get three bids for every

item. It varies so tremendously because youeQ workmen, your subcontractors,

carpenters, they find it very difficult to work with old buildings.
D: It's not straight, it's not piannned or the old pipe line is very difficult to

Page 15

D: work with, the old plaster, the lathe.-Te-- electrician--ast cringes to have to

we-k through the wires because we are trying to protect some molding. It is

a nightmare for a plumber of course. .. trying to run his pipes through

a building totally resistant... ( e / you are trying to save every item

there. Every architectural feature. So we run a lot of estimates4and a lot of plans.
vAie Go OLCt P0ob Av Iyc'
G: And as vwa~i-f them, -oe of the first things you should do is level the

house. Most of them have settled, they have termite problems, have some problems
in the C6 L'C >S and the _O\S__ so you spend months shoveling out

before you can start putting back together. And there is taking the plaster that

has fallen-- we were standing one day and we heard this loud crash and the whole

ceiling just fell. Just / ,/7/4 there 4-iewater damage in this house.

For years and years, the roof is just, it was pouring in like a Ysieve so

the plaster was damaged, moldings were damaged, and there was alot of plaster

just down period. It took a lot of cleaning up and of course the electricians

have to take some plaster out, and your plumbers, and t-hera alot that's just

getting things to the point where you can start refinishing. I'd say almost a
I t n, OT~
half probably, we-more.
N: Obviously.yea eventually found contractors who were willing to work with

older buildings. That was a major problem?

D: Well, I think you go through a sorting-out process. You go through, you try people,

you try working with people.... it's also important when you're working on a project

like this that you can work together well. Buff have some definite ideas on how

we'd like it done, and we certainly aren't the experts in the craft that they are

in. For example, plumbing or electrical ..so you really have to be able to

work together and communicate. And yes, we did find people. Probably the hardest

part was the first person we fired. We had to decide that no this wasn't the way

it was going to be done. And after that, we realized that we could find people

that we liked to work with and that it behooved us to do it.

Page 16

G: I think that we do try to replace mostly electrical. We feel that alot of the

old buildings are lost because of electrical fires. And so we have not been

just repairing. We have completely remodeled both buildings.

D: And the plumbing and electrical are brought up to code. Our aim is not to

make a flop house environment of an apartment. We really try to have a very

elegant place when it's finished, and certainly these apartments)with their

10 and 12 foot ceilingsand lovely walls/and the beautiful 'iaey-wooden floors

... it is a different style of living than you have in, you know, a normal kind
cor-o toC r 1 UM
of ji-t. You have a feeling of spaciousness.

G: It's not cheap to do this. We have found that it, especially if you are going

to do a building according to the guidelines of the historic register, it is

very expensive because you do want to find the brass fixtures and you do want

want to find old ones if you can, trying to find old moldings, I remember one day

we drove for days just trying to find flooring of the same milled-thickness because

you can't have 0 heart pine so it would match and finding materials

is a challenge and takes alot of time.

N: Where do you go to find these?

D: Well, we hered wrecking yards such as Burkholder in Jacksonville, We've discovered

a man in lake city who has, he himself has discovered old heart pine logs that

are over a hundred years old and he will mill wood and moldings to specification.

Then you find that other old houses that unfortunately have been torn down.

N: Is there any kind ofao*-voT"rk between restorers so that you, say, could call

someone who has done another old house somewhere else who could possibly tell you

where you could get things?

D: Oh, definitely. I think they are all so friendly. You can go in and talk to someone

and they are very eager to give you the information. Journals such as the Od

House Journal is also a good guide.

Page 17

N: Okay, you said that when you went up in the attic of the Fairbanks Folly, you

found all of the implements and clothes, what did you do with them?

D: We didn't have a chance to do anything with them. There was an estate sale

before we bought the property and when we bought there was just a little junk

we had to clean out right after... there really wasn't --- everything had been

sold. But it was amazing. There must have been twelve kerosene lanterns, with
V s rs, It, C\ Q o u o s c ac-Z C,v -cr '-,::
the globes just lined up, iron beds stored in the basement*, maybe twenty single

beds. Sthes, just amazing amount of .. and then some very beautiful furniture

inside. So we didn't have any chance to do anything with them. He did say, now

we did go through the basement with a metal detector and found some aS... a
CAMCO- Jc(t. ,P
friendone day and said I'd really like to go through it.. it was a dirt floor

basically.. and he found old I think a civil war cartridge and bits and pieces of
things and Sz just sort of kept them all. We've got them in a construction process

and we haven't done anything with the things that we have left. There are some

bits of fragments of moldings and so forth... we've kept them all but that's as

far as it's gone.
TN ) -TH- IS =f A 0 7= Af V a l i t
N: ZEnergy conservation energy efficiency, did that play a t at all in the

restoration process, did you aim for the house to be energy efficient and added that
8 C1J rA\- >G8 )S 7
work on a house built in the 14Q-1sand 1 0-1-

G: First of all, one of the most important things we've discovered is they built

houses better in those days than they do today. They were very conscious of using

the natural element; therefore you have double-hung windows, you a high ceilings,

you have a lot of cross ventilation. In the ,urns structure, pbu have about six

inches of space between the outside fabric and the inside fabric. Pr~a se4 y they

are cooler in the summer than they are warmer in the winter, if you know what

I'm trying to say. So your problems are probably in the winter. What we try to do

there -- it is not a good idea to blow insulation into the walls, so you don't do that.

Page 18

G: But we do insulate under the roof. And we do insulate under the floors. And

unfortunately in both the houses, the Fairbanks Bease has eleven fireplaces and

the Merrick-Simmons House has four fireplaces but its an old central chimney. We

have tried everything... even the masons unio)o try to get these chimneys back

in working order but its a very difficult process and very expensive so we donit

use the fireplaces in the Merrick-Simmons House. With Folly, the fireplaces are

fine. For heat, that is a problem because trying to ge-t your duct working for

air conditioning and heating does destroy the look of a house, it does destroy

maybe moldings and ceilings. Now in the Merrick-Simmons House, we did not do that.

We went to paddle-fans and we went for heat, we user gas heat. So that you have

a heater standing on the floor. We did not go into the walls. However in the Fairbanks

we did air condition and we put heat pumps in, but with months of planning and

a very ingenious air conditioning man, we were able to do it.. we dropped only

one ceiling in one kitchen which really had been a porch. So we dropped no ceilings

in fact in the main part of the house and, um, its either the registers are coming

up through the floor or down through the attic. And, or in a closet. So we are very

,roud of the way that we did put the heat and air conditioning in.

N: You said that financing with houses was a problem. Could you elaborate on that?

Banks have a hard time giving money to ...

D: You are asking the bank to look at a building that looks pretty decrepit. And imagine

a building that looks absolutely elegant. And it takes a lot of imagination for some

people. and until you have a track record, you also, they don't have a lot of

security in the fact that you are going to come through and do what you said. We

found a tremendous difference, um, in response from the bank that financed this

project originally, the Fairbanks project, um, to the rolling over and changing

the mortgage. They were, well, they were very, they did finance the project and they

were very willing to work with us, but when we went back after we'd completed it,

they were just delighted, and went out of their way to refinance it for us. So they

Page 19

D: have to see that you can do it also.

p In terms, you are talking about a lot of money as Buff said, and you're buying

a house. In the case of the Fairbanks House, the house was the equity in the project.

and restoration costs was the, the construction amount was the amount that we borrowed.
7T~e OTV< V IV-)( x I O ~ro SA \
But its allot of money. -~a-i problem is the appraisers.you call an appraiser and

you ask them to be imaginative also. And believe that you can do it. And appraisers

generally work on, the only figures they are really interested in are income.

And if you can justify a high enough income, they will say the house will be

worth a certain amount down the road. Although the comments that they make along

the way) wd had not found an appraiser that truly loves old houses yet. We may not

have looked in the right places. We're looking. And appreciates the value of old
Vfji MCVO^ -M U v^l \
houses. They usually go strictly by the apartment rentals, A so ~a-O T

D: That's true. They really don't take it into consideration. That's true. I think

everybody has been so helpful to us, county officials, city officials, even the

zoning, the building inspector, they really work well with us, but the appraisers

are the only people that seem not to recognize it as an antique or part of history.

They, it doesn't count with them. Another thing is, on the financing, you're

you really are gambling that, uh, for instance, in Fernandina, we were first to

make apartments out of these buildings. We had to educate the people that it's

more fun to live in an old house and be a part of the history of your town as

opposed, say, to a beach condo. And the people we do have in are really the kind

of people you'd like to have... They take a good deal of pride in it, they we find

that the young couples that moved in, they all had modern furniture like everybody

does when they are first married--- well, sure enough they are all running out

to antique stores and trying to buy period pieces that F\kT' T They-are-

get: Yu didn't have any proem ,C-~ in renting t

N: You didn't have any problem in renting them?

Page ]

) : Uh, well, no. Absolutely not, I should say not. Fernadina, like a lot of places

has a slow economy right now, there are some problems, one paper mill is having

some problems, and the kind of people we are appealing to are young professional

people. And we try to ask more for our rent because it is a higher, it costs more

to renovate something like the Fairbanks Folly, and so, uh, there are not that

many people, but we have rented.

N: What kind of help did you get from all levels of government? Or what kind of

problems did you have from all levels of government?

:That's a good question. Starting, I guess, with the FAirbanks House, um, we had

talked to the building inspector on the Merrick-Simmons House, and we knew the people

we were dealing with, and when we went down, we went to the Fairbanks House and

said, Oh,we'd love to restore this, it's a real challenge, it's exciting project, but

we were in a residential zone and Fernadina Beach grants no variances to their zoning

code. So we were stopped. Because obviously no single family is going to buy a house

as large as this and be able to maintain it--- I mean, there's just no hope for it.

So, one evening, I think one of the, I think one of the, they had a commission

meeting and one of the city commissioners along with the building inspector said,

wait a minute. Let's invent a PUD. And so, this was th" idea, we wereigr appealing

for help because there was no way they were going to let us put seven apartments

on this half-city block. Even though the density of those seven apartments was

less than the eight houses you could have put on individual pieces of land in the

same amount of space. laughter] Here you have one building, and you've gone up.

and you have green-space, lovely grounds around it, and you maintain. q.. selL-

So. He said alright. Let's figure out a way we can do a PUD and they gave us

a first p =aia development of single dwelling that had ever been done in Fernadina

Beach. I don't think that there has been another one to date. This is what you

usually have for large planned areas like a condominium, quadraplex, that kind

AL 82A
Page 21

1' :6,of thing. And um, that's an example of how helpful hey really were. They don't

deviate from the standards that they have to set for safety, and,um,

the plumbing quality and so forth. But they are willing to look at options. I was

thinking for example of the fire code. The building inspector might have said

you have to have a sprinkler system throughout the house. He might have said

you have to have a stand-pipe system where you bring a two-inch head of water into

the house, and have outlets on each floor so that our firemen can run in with their

hoses, tap into that tremendous head of water and put out a fire. He, we worked

with him, and figured out that the ceilings really wouldn't, it really wouldn't

work to have sprinkling systems. We couldn't get thh pipes in through the grooves.

And we went with te standpipe system, and we met his requirements ana meantime wei

didn't destroy the ceiling. So, if you have someone who is willing to look at options,

&d ......'.ifi^, and not sacrifice standards, then you are in good shape. And

we feel that we did have that kind of help.

D: You do have to worry about safety standards. I think that's probably the foremost

worry. But you really, you can't enclose the grand staircase. They did have

us put electrical in-cable throughout the house. Iniconduito hat made it more

difficult. We did have to put 5/8th inch sheetrock on the ceilings for

one houj fire protection. That made it difficult because there are some

absolutely -eautiful moldings in the Folly. As a matter of fact, we bAught
L \l Bob I - from the Florida State Museum upand he laid latex molds and recreated

molding that was missing from our house. ?ut they, I think that everybody was behind

us. I think something that we've learned from both these experiences and we are doing

this in Ocala, before we start a building we go and talk to the building inspector,

Story to find out all the code problems that we might encounter as we do oui plans,

before we do our plans'-~hat would we have to put in as far as electrical, fire,


Page 22

N: I see that they've just passed a preservation in the Lty of Gainesville. Is there

anything like that in Fernandina?

G: I don't think so. I 'm not entirely ... I know that Carol Benson was,sponsored this

ordinance. I am not entirely familiar with it because we have been working so hard.

Out of Gainesville. But I don't think that Fernadina has. Something we ought to

look into. We talked to the people in Ocala and told them to call Gainesville to, and

find out about this ordinance. I believe it's aimed for helping, isn't it, the zoning

to help people find ways that they can use old buildings.

N: How did the federal regulations help or hinder you? The designation of the houses

as national historical sites or the designation of the district as a national

historic district?

D: Well, first of all, we are very proud of the work we do, because all of our work

will be national register standards. We won't go in and in order to make a dollar1

do something to the building that is not up to their standards. So it makes it makes

it more difficult if you want to say it may make it more expensive; it makes it more

a challenge to try to work within their standards, but in the end your product is

so much finer. It's an educational process too. We've enjoyed very much our

relationship with Paul Weaver and David Farrell-win Tallahassee. They've both

been very helpful.

N: So that the red tape you have to go through is more than made up for by the

fact that...

G: Yes, and it is time-consuming. Uh, Sally and I estimated just for part two, of, uh

to have your certification of your rehabilitation, we spent about $550.00 just

on photographs, so and you can imagine how much time in hours going through this

o_'ogaRp_ S can take ..... and documented.

D: For example, you detail each change you make in a building. You specify what it is,

what you have done to a wall, what you have done to a molding, if you change a molding,

Page 23

D: take a door out-- all that has to be listed, categorized so it's a process that

takes a year. You have to be working on it constantly. You really do need to

record all those details.

N: Are there any federal tax incentives for preserved and restored houses that make

doing this more economically feasible?

G: Definitely. And I think probably without those we wouldn't be able to do it.

They just about cover the additional cost. It comes back in a nice convenient way..

that makes it attractive to investors, but on a house that's on the national register

that is used for commercial purposes that is restored according to the guidelines

of the register, you qualify, if all the conditions are met, and you spend more

on restoration than you do on the original purchase price, you qualify for a

25% investment tax credit which is significant, which makes the negative

balance of the actual restoration costs, which are so high, palatable. The new tax

rules also allow you to depreciate a building for fifteen years.

D: We literally could not have done the Fairbanks Folly because the cost would have

been much tooexorbitant without the tax -4eak. C"a '

N: Is this, is there a possibility thatvthe administration SmBe g these tax credits

will be cut out.

G: Well, I understand they are being reduced. Let's hope that they are not cut out.

because I think it will, it definitely will hurt the preservation movement.

N: Moving out of the specific houses in, uh, Fernadina and into the house that you're

looking at in Ocala, why did you choose Ocala instead of possibly coming back to


G: (laughter) You want aesthetic reasons? ?

N: There is no aesthetic reason.

G: We got so tired of driving two and a half hours to Gainesville, we decided t

that we should look closer to home, and we have looked in Starke, we looked in

Page 24

G: Lake City and right now wef are looking in Ocala. And we don't know what will come

of our looking, but, um, well, the reason Ocala is attractive to us, it is just
starting. They have gotten be people together to become a historic district. They

have just passed an ordinance, AkIAin we have found, like in Fernadina, nobody has

done what we are about to do) or what we hope we are about to do. Nobody has

restored a building according to the guidelines of the national Register. They have

converted houses to boarding houses to hbr-m'd liuTue and apartments, They are just..

they look awful. They look like slums,and we want to show them how to do it.

Or what we hope is the rightS So we have put a bid on a piece. And here again, W

to show you how you really have to educate the community, the house that we've put

a bid on, the person who owns it feels that it really should be bull-dozed and

a parking lot made. So webee trying to stop thish4 hope we are going to be


D: There are some lovely old houses in Ocala, definitely. So you have some possibilities

and you have a lot of people who are interested in saving them.

N: Is there any organized preservation group of concerned citizens in Ocala who you can

work with and through?

D: Definitely. They've got a very active group called "HOPS) These are concerned

citizens and they are fighting very hard to get this historic district through, 5P

hey are not just a state district but a national district and 'Wy, as I said, the

paper-work is all done, and it's a matter now of presenting it to Tallahassee which

I believe they plan to do by the fall. And yes, they are very active, "hey are trying

to get done because we have also heard about another building that is about to

be torn down for a parking lot. l-aughter

N: What is the differentiation between a national historic district and a state historic


G: I would imagine the guidelines. You mean as far as restoration goes?

Page 25

N: As far as guidelines go.

G: I'm sure that anything that is going to be registered nationally has to go through

the state process. But beyond that, in terms of the city, I don't know. That's a

good question. I'd like to find out-- there may be some differences in the ordinances

and about what you can and cannot do.

N: Okay, you've worked through this HOPS organization in Ocala. Have you also done

research not only on the specific house that you are looking at but maybe on the

history of Ocala so you have some idea of the background of the entire city?

D: We are just starting. We've made several trips to Ocala, and as I',ve said, we're

trying like made to get a contract on this house so that it isn't torn down.

We just finished the Fairbanks in December and took a few weeks off. We were both

very tired at the end of that. And in the process, meanwhile somebody called us

from Lake City. There is a very beautiful Queen Anne house there. In fact, one

of the best Queen Anne examples in the state of Florida. And here it is in Lake City

which has no historic district. Apparently, according to Paul Weaver in Tallahassee,

it s commercial area is one of the most devastated in Florida. There is no way

wiil it ever become a district or be certified. So here is this lovely house

sandwiched in in this commercial area. We tried, we've tried many ways, we spent a

a lot of time out there trying to find ways to preserve it. Again, we cannot find

an economic use. to make its preservation viable. We've thought of everything to

restaurantto bed and breakfasts. It does not lend itself to apartments. So far we

cannot come up with a way. The gentleman who asked us to restore it--I'm sure is

very sad. He really would like to see it preserved. So with that, somebody said

please come down to Ocala. Take a look down there and we've just been down there

three times so no, we're hoping we'll hear soon about this house and then we will

immediately start all our architectural plans, get into the history of not only

the building but the history of Ocala/and start...

Page 26

G: Because that's what makes the project very interesting for us, besides doing it

in historical fashion, it makes the building come alive for you. When you meet

the descendants, and you said, well ,when I was two years old and my grandfather

lived here. .. and the stories that they tell about the place. It just makes

it much more appealing.:

D: For example, let me take you back to the Fairbanks Folly again. We've met their 2

granddaughters-- of major Fairbanks. One is Nanc Hunts ho I believe is 86.

She lives in Jacksonville. She has come up andold y wonderfulvof her childhood
Cs-enf L, L IST AScoT PRQrf-s
when living there. And as a result too,we invited the Les-T class ofleso'f

landscape Architecture students from the university of Florida. They came up
^(5f I
and they c'V a class project.T- take the grounds back to the Victorian era.
We found it with plants grown up so close that we had to hire a bull-dozer to

pull out alot of the foundation plants that were destroying the outer fabric.

The wood was .. it was rot, mold, termites, cause the plants were keeping the

bui~ ing damp. It wasn't able to breathe at all. So his class came up and Nancy

S- enz?(or Hunts Major Fairbanks' granaughter, and she sat with the class and

she spent about two hours telling them where the trellis' were, were the gazebo

was, where the gardens were that fed the house, and how the barrels of flour came

in and the barrels of butter and the ships in the harbour and where the old ice

chest was in the house, and the different herbs and plants.. that is all part

of historic preservation. You really have to seek out descendants, people who have

lived there, people who have known other people who lived there, as well as

the written work from the archives.

G: It really was funny though. Buff and I were doing this project for the whole

year and we must have (end of tape 1, side A)

AL82A 7


G: met with people of all ages and descriptions who lived there at various times

over the years. And some of their stories were quite remarkable also. But we

particularly enjoyed out association with the granddaughter.

D: and when you do, you turn up stories like we did with Merrick-Simmons. -mea-n

paep never knew about C lV\ Merrick or having coming down and marrying

the governor. And so we hope that we'll discovered some hidden secrets.from the

history of Ocala. this way too.

N: Do you have any idea what you plan to do with this house if you get it.? Do you

plan to turn it into apartments as well.

G: Well, no, actually we would like to try doing something with offices, professional

offices. Exquisite location. And or something like that and it would be a challenge

for us to do something a little different.

D: This particular house is right on the corner. It's right next to City Hall. Very

near the courthouse. And it's also the very beginning of their historic district.

that's why we do not want to see it torn down. It starts the main street where the

old houses are. So, it would lend itself very beautifully to something like

legal offices or town officials or CPA's. something of that sort.

N: Okay. What problems have you had with people who oppose preservation, people who

think that these old houses don't have any value... What problems do they

pose and how do you answer their arguments?

D: I don't think we've had any real problems from people like that. At least

people who are, from people who are in the position to stop us from doing

anything. As I said, you really have to educate your building inspector and

the people who are in charge of seeing that your codes are carried through. If

you can work with them... You have to educate your banker, and your appraiser.

G: Of course if you can be honest about the economics of the project, if you

can prove that it is an economic and viable project, people are willing to go

along with it.


Page/A5 -

N: So it's a question of economics if you can prove that it's going to work,/people

who are not interested in the aesthetics of the building will ..

D: Won't stand in your way.

N: Okay ladies, One of the problems that I have seen or come across with preservation

is that, um, the problem of gentrification, and I know that...

G: Well, that's a good question.

D: The problem of gentrification?

N: And with these houses it might not be the case, maybe I'm talking in a kind of

non-specific model. How do you answer that, when poor people are living in a run-down

neighborhood which has historic significance and someone comes out and fixes up

the house and, um, young upper-middle class move in and these poor people are


G: Well, I'm sure that is a real problem. We haven't run into that. Both of our

buildings have been vacant. They were empty and in danger of falling down if

somebody didn't do something. I should think that would be a really, a big problem,

especially if you were working in a city like Philadelphia or some of the inner

core cities. Since we haven't been exposed to that problem, I don't know, I haven't

investigated what I would do or how I would feel about it.

N: Obviously preservation cannot be done in a vacuum. The community has to be behind

it. How do you go about supporting and promoting the idea of preservation?

D: Well, I think the best thing that you can do is to start to preserve a building.

And once you preserve one building, it's amazing how fast other buildings will

be preserved. And I think as you preserve a building, you are talking to alot of
people. So many people stop by out of curiosity. We are very willing,.. we've been

asked to talk to historic groups, we gave a lecture to the Woman's Forum, we are

going to give another one to the Pen Women, and I think that we are the people

that are in it are probably the best salesmen a preservation. And we get very

cml C
Page 28

D: involved I think with the history of the town, and of course you get very

involved with your commissioners, you get involved with your city officials,

definitely you don't do it in a vacuum. You need, you very much need the help

of the community backing, and it really helps if you have an active community

an active groupin historic preservation.

N: So what effect do you see preservation having on the community as a whole?

D: Well, first of all, I think that you bring an awareness to people of their history.

and what their town looked like. Second, I found that, I mean, we provided ilot

of jobs for Fernadina and a lot of people were out of a jobs. I think probably

labor-wise when you restore you need a ot of crafts, craftsmen, so its a benefit

economically. But I just, you can't help believe that down the line, that your
(r O WHAFT 10T U lou HAVE
i~e i s going to be very proud, -t aye have preserved a bit of history, you

also have the beauty. These houses are so beautiful compared to a brand new


N. Okay, obviously not just the finished product is important to you. It's important

working on it seems to be as rewarding as the finished product. Is that correct.

G: Very definitely. I think we plan to hold these buildings too. We don't do them

to sell and make a profit, since we are so involved with them. We want to hold

control over them and make sure that they are maintained in the historical fashion

in the way they've been preserved. So we plan to hold these buildings for twenty

years or more. And hope by that the more people that live in them that educates

more people and they become more aware and maybe alot of our tenants in time themselves

will restore an old house. Or at least they now appreciate the older fabric..

N: When you go about restoring the building, how much actual work on it, yourselves,

do you and Sally do? Do you do the majority of the work or do you contract out?

D: Well, on our first house, we did the majority of the work. That was our apprenticeship.

And we did learn. And it really helps you because you learn how long it does take

to do sheetrock, how long it does take to do some carpentry. Or painting, or...

cml '

D: and so when it comes time for your your estimates, I think that you are

much more knowledgeable when, whether that bigger estimate is true or not. But

the second house, the Fairbanks House, was so large, it. was over 7,000 square

feet, and to do that in a year's time, we had to rely on alot of other help.

But we were in there doing .a little bit of it vwl. tlheT. We do get our hands

right in... we work right along side &fthe carpenter, the painter, the

people who are finishing the w The floor man... we try to work with., that

way we also can stay right on top of it. You can't just tell someone to do

something in-an old house'and then walk away and expect it to be done right.

It won't be done the way you want it. And, uh, so I'd say, the Fairbanks, we may

done a third of it, and in the Merricks-Simmons house we did probably more than
fifty percent sixty percent of it ourselves.
N: So in moving to another city you are going to have to find new contractors, new
electrical people, new plumbers. Is that going to be a problem?
D: That is a problem. It really is. It takes a long time to find the craftsman who
are good, and it's a selective process and it, you start by asking other people
who has worked on your home? Who does not get flustered by working with old
buildings? And we will startto compile a list and get recommendations and from there
it's trial and error.
N: Is there any particular reason why you have not, when you worked in Fernandina first,
why you did not come back and work on the house in Gainesville?
D: No, I think that you have a very active group here in Gainesville, and the group
bae4 had started before we got into it, and basically I think that most of the
buildings that we would like doing have already been done. There probably still
are some areas and probably still some individual buildingsbut we have not
been able to find one that we could do in the style that we want to do it in.
For whatever, and again, it goes back to this economic useful....
N: Do you have a particular philosophy of preservation? Of why it's important not
only to a community but to a nation or to you as a person? Has it changed your
G: Oh, definitely it changed my life. I love to go to auctions and antique shows
now and I never, and I didn't do that before. It just makes me appreciate the
craftsmanship that went into these old structures versus the craftmanship today.

Pagem 2

G: We built a new house, and Oh, I just, I loved this house when I built it, but
now I see a lot of sian workmanship compared to what I have found in the older
D: ALike anything else new that you do, you add a dimension to what you see in your
environment. You perceive your environment differently, it's much more exciting
to go downtown in Gainesville and go through and look at the old houses, and you
learn something, you have some knowledge and you build on, te knowledge...
G: You are recreating a way of life too. /4/ Why they had some really beautiful
porches, the verandahs, the loggias, because they did need the air stirring and
the Fairbanks has a lovely swing, has several swings on porches, and you know that
in the heat of the day, it's lovely to go out and sit. e swing. Move the air
a little. And you understand why they built high ceilings and, uh, just, it's a
whole way of life that, as you are restoring you sort of feel yourself slipping
Back into.
N: -it's more than just an old house, it's almost life social history, in a way. You' C
are recreating a time. Do you really feel yourself going back into the 188 ?
And seeing yourself as of that?
G: I think so. When Nan Heinz ame out and described the shelves that used to hold
all her old petticoats when she was a little girl, and the photos of when they,
uh, would go off to the beach and they had long gowns to go to the beach in, and how
um, they put the first telephone in in Fairbanks. And when the children were sick,
it used to be that Major Fairbanks would saddle up the horse and carriage and run
up to get the town doctor, a Then when they got the telephone you could ring up
the doctor. And you realized how different the life was then from now.
D: It may be that everybody's trying to reach back for roots. You notice the dresses
that women are wearing today, the styles, the Victorian frills and the laces,
more attention to materials.
N: Do you find this almost a false gra..:Ini:for the past? I see that, you know,
we were talking earlier about Lichfield and people have a false impression of
what the past was like. Do you find that, by doing scrupulous research, that
what you are doing is really showing people exactly what it was in the past that
is kind of interesting?
D: Well, we sure hope so. When we painted the Fairbanks Folly, it was white when
we bought it, and we painted the Fairbanks back to the original colors. We took
samples from all over the house of old paint, you can find it under places where
it hasn't been touches by new paint, and we found the house was really very gaudy,
JR1?h different shades of yellows greens and bright red arches, and so we started painting

Page i/ })

: the house that, and you can imagine the number of comments we had from the, umn,
city people, but gr dual y, as we showed them thephotographs that had been hand-
tinted and QCTI ________S(C nb ( #)
tinted and STof Ve t~~_ they said Oh, and now they are cropping up
various houses in Fernadina with the same colors. Laughter] So, um, we are being
N: Sally, what is your philosophy on preservation, why it's important for the community,
for the country and for yourself?
D: Well, it is important for a community and a country to recall a past and to have
the benefit of the knowledge and the experience and the effects of the past to
realize what those are in life.... To me, it's very exciting, I've very much
enjoyed working with Buff and it's a tremendous partnership that has added a whole
new dimension to my life. It is fascinating, the job that we're doing. It is just
exciting. One day you might be in a library researching; another day you might be
putting up a piece of molding on a ceiling trying to recreate an effect from the
old days, another day you might be digging in the ground for artifacts;. Or moving
a bush to get it away from the house. There is nothing static about this work.
And in that sense it's fascinating. And I find opening up my*own housw in Gainesville
My husband was very interested in going back and trying to recapture some of the
little, the ways of living/in the sense of heating and cooling and water heating
and so forth. It has had an impact, definitely, on our lives. We have cross-ventilation
but no air conditioning. We haeethe sun to to heat our hot water, we used
wood stoves to very efficiently heat our house. Perhaps we wouldn't have been
as anxious to take the plunge if we hadn't seen that it could work.
N: Do you find that there are problems in people who do restorations in not the
fastidious way that you do? That it's kind of a sham to the profession?
D: You, you, it's very difficult to dudge other people, but it does make us mad,
and, uh, at the same time when you do see someone doing what they call a restoration,
and they are dropping the ceilingand theytare putting up, you know, plywood paneling,
carpeting the floors, painting it or sandblasting, Oh... well that's the most
irreversible one. I mean, I really hate to use this, but, I don't know who did this,
but for instance,the one historical building that they had down in Mayport, the
old lightkeepers house, and somebody asked us if we would restore it but at the time
we were too involved withhthe Fairbanks, and so bsmebody did "and the first
thing he did was he sandblasted the whole building. It was a wooden structure. If
you go up close and feel it thewhole house feels like a piece of driftwood. It is
pitted now. And you know that' not going to stand up to time. That he has probably
done more to destroy that house than restore it.

cml -

N: What would you have done to get that old paint off?
D: Well, we'Vellearn&dathat the best method is scraping. Um, you don't want to
sand the wood, you don't want to sandblast it, uh, you want to scrape as much
as you ean, you can feather, if you've got four and five layers of paint, we have
used a heat torch and you can also feather the edges of the paint. But the idea
is not to make it look like new. And I think that's basically where you start
educating everybody. You are not restoring the house to look like a brand lew
house. You want it to be a graceful lady. She, in other words, the building shows
,when you paint it new, you will see alot of indentations in the exterior paint,
and that shows that it has aged and the walls aren't straightkInside, because we
leave the old lathe on, if we have to take the old plaster off and have to putaup
sheetrock, we try to leave the old lathe on, and put the sheetrock on that, and
therefore you don't have to take 6ff the interior moldings, and you don't crack
those, you don't displace them, you can then butt Syour sheetrock up to the old
molding and it fits just like the plaster did. But again, the sheet, the man handling
r-VxW"c cse o\B -\MS, An \Tr,
it doesn't like to do that because the wall doeent-flatten It
undulates and bends all over the wall. But when you are through, you have wa
looks old again. It, the wallddoes have a nice curve to it laughter) and a few
indentations, and that's part of the charm. And the same thing with the floor. The
floorrisn't when it's supposed to be refinished, you don't want it to come out looking
brand new, you want it to have the dark areas that show that life did go onethere
for a hArod aa.. 100 Y.GIS
G: And there may be some cracks that you can't fill, but you learn to love those cracks.
D: A while back we found a civil war bullet embedded in the floor in the Merrick-
Simmons house and we found one of the glass windows that one of the children had
taken up a pen or something and etched her name. Mary Deucen? in the glass in
G: And that glass is still in the house. We never knew it until one night we were
standing atar a wall, we were painting, and the dust filtered down and the light
that we were working by sort of just picked up this name... it was just...
N M l...... S,(t,_e O r--TV4C Ws_ -

D: That's one of those.... a P_______ ~want you to replace the old sashesD
and so we are going Oh... we spent hundreds and hundreddsof dollars just trying
to repair, because you've got termites or you've got rot in the wood, and so we
had spliced ino pieces of wood into the old sashes just to keep them. And unfortunately
the old glassejas so beautiful too, -a that's broken and you have to replace it
with brand new glass-glass.


N: The tools that you use to restore these homes, do you use, have you used modern
tools or do you try to get tools that were available when the house was-
D: Well, we use modern tools. We did have one carpenter from the ld world who
came from Holland. His name was onntools as a child, this gentleman was about
sixty-six years old, and he brought his own planers and so forth that he had made,
they had old models when he went to carpentry school, you know, he was fifteen or
or something, so, but n6, we do use sanders, we do use electrical power tools,
and we haven't tried to do anything with the old tools. Might take about 17 years
instead of one year (laughter) if you did it the other way, with our.present
day skills and the old tools.
N: Okay, do you have anything more to addon either restoring specific houses or
on preservation in general, the state of the movement, or?
D: Well, frankly I think that more people-need to be educated about what the historic
register means. There are albt of people who are afraid to havd their houses
or their buildings included in districts. We found i'his in talking to -.C l_
one man absolutely refused,tso thay had to draw the line around his house
because he thinks once it's on the register, he no longer can do what he wants
to do with his house, which, really, that's, the register doesn't prevent you.
from doing it. It just, it, it tries to provide an incentive so that people won't
tear it down or youawon't build a high-rise right next tb it. Or, uh, you won't
change the structure of the house, but it's only, And I think the register, people
yrthere need to be somehow more efforts to educate your community.
N: Do you think it requires education for people who assume that this is my house,
I can do with it as I please. And put that feeling more into zoning 'cause I guess
zoning regulations had,to fight against that, you know, people wanted to put a
hamburger stand ii a residential neighborhood and now zoning laws are taken for
granted. Do you see a time when preservation ordinances or inclusion in the
Register might be taken for granted as well.
D: I hope so. I can see where it's had difficulties. Like in Fernadina, several people
wanted to put aluminum siding on their house. It became a very heated debate. I
belieVe three people did end up putting aluminum siding on their hold... in the
district, the historical district. And I mean, afterall, this is the old philosophy,
you know, my-home-is-my-castle idea and you're not going to tell me what to do.
G: This goes back to the idea of education, is what you're saying. As soon as people
begin to value what they have and the antiquity of what they have, and appreciate
Sfor reasons other than just a place to live, they have more of abxee-dth of appreciation
t t +V

AL82A f
Page 3

G: then, probably, the reservations will be just naturally resolved.
And they should be told, when you sandblast a building, with wood, you have
shortened the life of that building.
D: Or when you put on siding.
G: And you want this for not just yourself to look at but for your children and
^\ t-rQ-\ urS
their children And so, I think this will, especially with" ki d~ n
\ef' people houses, somewhere you could educate them.as to the benefits of
doing it right rather than ruining the structure.
N: Rather than doing it quickly or with the least amount of time or money put it.
D: Um hmmm. And like the buildings these people feel that should be torn down in
Ocala because they are going to get more for their dollar in a parking lot or
whatever... I think the, if you really talk to these people and educate them,
um, they would see that, probably dollar for dollar, they'd do better to keep
the structure.
N: Speaking of houses, do all old houses have historic benefits?
D: No. That's probably a- You can't just say that just becyse it's old it should
be preserved. That probably is not true. We haven't come across, we haven't put
any bids on anything like that because the buildings we are all dealing with in
are n the historic district and are significant. I would imagine that there are
not every old building has to be saved.
G: Or yogucould afford to save them.
D: Yeah. And something I've worked with-- lange commercial buildings like train
stations and sorforth... that's another part of...
N: Yeah. Well that's... train stations appear to be more of a changing function
I don't think they are really restoring them. They are just keeping the shell and
graduallyly changing it completely inside.
D: But sometimes you just can't pour millions of dollars into a building and
get no return. The money's just not there.
N: I was thinking more in terms of.. there's a question now in Gainesville of the
Fifth Avenue neighborhood.iThinking of turning that into a, at least a state
historicadistrict and ]iot of these houses are very small, very ramshackle, and
you've got people living in them in the worst conditions imaginable, and to tell
this person that this house is to be saved for historic purposewswherein this person
would like nothing better than to get out and move into those new low-rent
housing that are down over on Twelth Street, and uh, Fifth Avenue... I can see
that as a problem.
D: Because we haven't worked in Gainesville we aren't really that familiar witk

Page 34

D: that area, but there are some buildings in that area that should be preserved.
Now maybe (you can work to preserve those by some ordinanceqwhatever otherwise
is torn down, whatever is built in there could be in keeping with the historic
nature or element... in other words, you don't want to put up a high=rise
right next to-"t.here's one lovely Eastlake-style building I believe back in
that neighborhood--and you don't Want a high-rise condominium going right beside
it. So maybe you can work to that effect. Yes, no, there's not, not every building
in there needs to be preserved. But certainly there are some that should.
N: But once again you're getting *into philosophy if these people can be shown
that yes, their neighborhood has historic significance just as much as the old
northeast, uh, and there are houses there worth saving possibly a sense of
neighborhood pride, a sense of concern for the neighborhood as a neighborhood,
instead of just as, you know as Fifth Avenue with,,,I think,to me that isone of
the important things about preservation is being excited about where you live,
and that every place has some merit. Even the smallest house has some kind of .
D: I was just going to say Ithat I think alot of the .at least traditionally,
from living in Gainesville a lot of those properties I think you were describing
are rental properties and haven't been maintained and have been, well, that's
a definite social problem in our community. And perhaps those same houseses
those same little insignificant ramshackle houses as you just said, do have
some and if they had some material work done, and they had adequate
plumbing facilities, electrical, wiring and a nice fresh coat of paint on the
outside, you would again have this pride in the community and they do represent
a part of our history, for better or for worse. They are probably more comfortable
to live in in some ways --laughter if they had a little bit more -f---1-, thA
even moving into a smalleyvmodern project..
N: Anything more that you wanted to....
D: I don't think so.....Oh,one thing that Buff and I found was that while were awfully
busy restoring old houses, our own houses are getting old awfully fast, and it's
difficult keeping everything going bn both sides* but this is a very involving job
and exciting and we've enjoyed thoroughly the people we've met and worked with,
it's just opened up so many dimensions in our lives. It's been a very exciting
G: I guess the problem with a community like that is how do finance the restoration
of some of those old homes?
N: Once again it gets down to a question of economics.
D: If the city could find some way that loans could be made to these people to
rehabilitate them, you might get it started.

Page 35

N: One more question, have you had any experience working with the national
D: Personally? You -pean on the committee? No. No were not. We've only been
in this business 2 / 746A-'
N: Okay, I'd like to..
D: I hope Sbmeday we do...
N: I'd like to thank you very much for allowing me to interview you.
D: Thank you.



Dickinson, Sally......................1,2,T

Fairbanks Folly (house)...............4,11

Fairbanks, Major...................11

Fernandina, Florida .................. .1,2,3,4,6
attitude towards preservation..... 3-4

Gordon, Buff......................... 2,9-10
background....... .. .............. 1

Historic Preservation..... ............1,2
economic value of......... .... 4,10-11

Merrick, Clowey.......................7

Merrick-Simmons House ................ 5
location.....................*. ...6
research on................. ...... 6-7
restoration of...................7-11
restoration, length of......... 12

National Register of Historic Places..5,6

Reed, Harrison..................... ..7

Simmons, Mr. ........................6

University of Florida ................ 2,3,7
Floyd Hall ....................... 2
Grinter Galleries.................2
preservation of old buildings.... 2,3
P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History.......7

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs