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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Sarah McLeod
Interviewer: Sid Johnston
Date: March 22, 1983
Place: Room 331, City Hall
J: Good morning! We're here at City Hall in Gainesville, Florida. In Mrs. Sarah McLeod's
office on the third floor. Beautiful spring morning. It's March 22, 1983. The sun
islshining. The trees are popping little green buds on their tips. Good morning,
M: Good morning.
3: How are you this morning?
M: I'm fine, thanks.
J: Good. Where were you born?
M: I was born in Tampa, Florida. August 1950.
J: So you're a Florida girl?
M: All myllife.
J: All right. Did you live in Tampa all your life?
M: About twenty years.
J: Where did you go to school there?
M: I went to Plant High School and the University of South Florida.
J: So Plant High.School would be in, is that in Plant City?
M: No, it's in Tampa.
M: Dale Mabry.
J: Okay. Was that Dale Mabry South?
M: Uh'!huh. Yeah. Are you familiar with Tampa?
J: I was at the University of South Florida for about three yearsdoing my graduate work.
M: That's right.
J: And I have a sense _Dale Mabry is such a long street. I was trying to make
a connectionwhere it is. Are your parents originally from Tampa?
M: Indiana and Georgia. But most of their life in Florida.
J: Your father from Indiana?
J: Okay. How did they meet?
M: I'm noti:sure-how they met. It must have been... It was in Florida. Uhn huh. Yeah.
J: Do you have a sense of when your father moved from Georgia to Tampa or when your
mother moved from Indiana to Florida, Tampa?
M: When they were young. Both when they were... Cause I remember my father talking about
fishing out of Tampa Bay when he was a boy. Uh huh.
J: That sounds neat. I suspect you probably couldn't do that today. With all the chemicals
and all the floating around in there. L ii
M: I'm not sure you want to eat the fish out of it. (Aug~4g4
J: So youreceived.your B.A. from the University of South Florida?
M: Uh huh. Yeah. In English.
J: What year was that?
J: '73. And did you stay in Tampa after graduating?
M: No. I moved to Gainesville in search of a job.
J: And what kind of job did you have in mind? R-
M: Anything I could get with an English degree!,/I got real lucky. I was hired as a
technical writer for Environmental Science and Engineering. West of Gainesville. Worked
for them for four years. Gained a lot of experience. Good company.
J: What kinds of technical writing did you do?
M: Well, for their documents, they do a lot of work for the Environmental Protection Agency.
So monitoring, ordering waste water and air pollution. That sort of thing. I was in the
water division and got to do some field work for them. Traveling; to many places in
the United States. So it was a real good experience.
J: Did you apply to that company?
J: And they accepted you with an English degree?
M: Uhn huh. Because they had a specific need for a very large document. They were rushing
M: to complete. And they needed someone to proof it and go over it with a fine tooth
comb. And they told me when they hired me that it could possibly be just a temporary
job to get that document out. And because it was such a small firm at the time, they,
when that project was over, they just worked me in as needed to other jobs and trained
me on the job. So I got into the technical field at that point. And that's how I
ultimately gained an interest in planning in general. Cause I didn't really want to go
back andleven though I was real interested in environmental engineering, I didn't want
to go back for four years to gt the degree. And I found out that the Planning Depart-
ment would accept people from various backgrounds..-So I could be involved in a more
technical field without actually getting a degree necessary to be in engineering.
J: Would you say that that same kind of thinking would carry you forth into a technical
M: I' m not sure I understand your question.
J: That's okay. Would an engineering firm today accept someone with an English degree for
that kind of work?
M: Well, now, I may have missed your question again but I know that Environmental Science
now has a complete word processing center with technical writers, whereas before they
didn't even think, really, of the position as an official position. Now they have a
whole staff to polish up their reports. So I feel like I might even have a better
chance at this point. Yeah, anyone from an English background should check into that
field. But I was lucky to be worked in to the technical field. That probably wouldn't
happen again. Just because I was an employee and I was needed, I was sent out to take
water samples, you know. And they could train me how to do it and I did it and,
whereas now, I'm sure they would much prefer to have someone who is working on their
engineering degree and that would be, you know, kind of like an internship.
J: What was the name of that company?
M: Environmental Science and Engineering.
J: And that's west of Gainesville. It is still in operation today?
M: Yeah. Oh yeah. It's a very big firm. They've grown. They have branch offices
all over the United States now. They do a lot of government work. But thgy are
J: You said that an interest in planning evolved out of working with them. Can you
enlighten me a little bit more on what that means?
M: Well, alright. I'll be truthful. I wanted to move forward and it is the one avenue
that I saw opening for me. I could get a masters degree which, in itself, would be a
step forward. And I did have an interest in the technical field of, well, in the
environment, I guess.I could say, in general. I had gained an interest from my
experience and I did see that planning touched on many different aspects. Engineering,
as well as social considerations. It just, you know, it seemed to well, English.
The reason I chose English was because, so that I could get a well-rounded knowledge of
many different fields. So planning was just another step into a field with a lot of
variety, considering all the different elements that go into development of the land.
I could be involved with the technical operations of development, work with the
engineers and sewer and water people and the electrical people and the transportation
and housing people. But not have to have an in-depth knowledge of each individual
technical field. Have a general knowledge of these fields and work with the people and
be an organizer, so to speak. I love organization. I'm real methodical, organized-type
person. So I just kind of, I feel like I found my niche. So to speak. But I will
say very strongly that a planner' 'most important role is coordinator, is trying to bring
the people together who have the technical knowledge to do the work. You know? That is
not something I can do but I can help other people come together and do the work that
needs to be done.
J: Did you feel well accepted by these technicians you were working with?
M: I did. I was blessed to be with such nice people. I know that, you know, that isn't
always the case. But these were just very nice people at ESE- that's the letters for
J: That sounds environmentally...
M: Yes. I'm forever indebted to my boss --John Crane. He is the one that really helped
me along the way and encouraged me to go on and get more education. And he was very
kind. While I was working there to help me get experience. You know, as much
experience as I could get. But then he realized that I couldn't go any further with
that company. I, you know, I wasn't an engineer and I was at a deadend as a technician.
J: He was coming to bat :for you.
M: Yeah. He really was. He, actually he told me if I didn't go back to school he was gonna
fire me. I had no choice. ettgh lmTgEPj
J: Being straight forward.
M: No. He was great. Wonderful person. He's now vice president. One of the vice
presidents of ESE. So he's doing real well.
J: So he prompted you to return for a masters degree?
M: Uhn huh.
J: To the University of ...
J: And you completed that?
M: I did.
M: Let's see. That was in '79 that I graduated from the Department of Urban Regional
J: From English to Urban Planning. And it sounds like it was very easy. It wasn't the
step from aesthetically isolated English major to someone involved in Urban Planning
sounds likes it was a very easy flow. Nice flow.
M ;: I believe that's because of my experience. At ESE. I really do. And it, I, well,
planning is a field that you can, the student can specialize as he chooses. He can
get more into the technical aspect of planning. A lot of people decide to go in to
a strong use of the computer in planning. Or, you know, specialize in transportation
planning or utilities planning. So I guess it just depends an your background and
M: what your desire is. That's what's nice about planning. You can kind of fit where
you want to fit and it, for example, my friend, JMON Barr Her specialty was
preservation. Historic preservation was her main interest. So she went into planning)
but specialized in preservationplanning. So that's, you know, far removed from
utilities and sewer and water. And it's just kind of a wide open field. Course, what
you specialize in makes a difference of what kind of a job opportunity you might have
when you graduate.
J: Is Melony employed in Gainesville?
M: She's a private consultant, preservation consultant.
J: Does she run her own business then?
M: Uhn huh.
J: With a group of associates or by herself?
M: By herself.
J: Where is that? In Gainesville?
M: She works out of her home. Yeah. And of course, she tries to stay involved in:the
different preservation activities in the city. A member of Historic Gainesville
Incorporated, a private organization. And on one of the, well, on the City Advisory
Board for Preservation. So she stays involved as much as she can and she's building
a reputation. People know her and when they need work done in preservation, they
call on her. She does a very good job too. Very thorough.
J: So John Crane prompted you to return for a masters degree and you did so. And then
M: Once again, I'm very blessed. I think my life has just been one blessing after another.
Just by happenstance an opening came up with the city of Gainesville. You know, planners
would never imagine because there's never any turnover in the planning department here.
It's just, you know, it's a small staff and a lot of people that graduate from Florida
like Gainesville enough that they'd like to find a job here and stay. Or they have
a spouse that's still in school, whichiwas my case.eventually. But I just was very
lucky because this job came open due to a grant that the city received. Preservation
M: money was available at that time. In 78, 79. They received this grant to do survey and
planning work for, to identify historic resources in Gainesville. And they wanted to, it
was a temporary position they hired me for. And what's an interesting point here is that
MaNeoy Barr and I both applied for the job and it was a preservation grant and they decided
that they would rather hire someone from a general planning background rather than someone
from a preservation standpoint. Because they really, I believe they felt that one, when
the grant was over, there'd be much more probability of working that person into a
permanent staff position for general planning rather than preservation planning. In other
words, I don't think that there was enough impetus at the time for the staff members to
believe that preservation really would be a high priority in city programs. That it would
(A e:- lI P,
be, it would be set back after the grant was over. So they hired me instead of Heny.
And poor Melony! She couldn't understand it and of course, I had no intention of getting
into preservation when I was in planning school. I just, you know, I just tried to,
like I say, be familiar with all the different aspects of planning. Be really typical
general planning. And so I felt really bad but, you know, I needed a job just as bad
as Melony did. And as it turned out, Mf~1ay felt that she was kind of glad that she didn't
get the job because mine, the work turned out to be very administrative. Not much
preservation. She likes to get into the heart of the preservation work. Doing the historic
research and, you know, really, really investigating the records and I haven't done any
of that at all. I've been an, more of an administrative capacity. And so it worked out
really good for both of usbecause I don't think she would have been happy with the position
But now as it's turned out, it looks like I will be a full time preservation planner
rather than a general planner. And, but still I see that as the only person in preserv-
ation, I still see that as more of an administrative role. I like being more involved
in historic, well, I might be able to do a little bit of historic research. But as the
only staff person, I feel I should try to involve as many volunteers as possible in the
preservation work. To really get the job done. Because I can't, I won't be able to take
the time to go and spend hours in the library and maybe even hopefully doing oral histories.
M: I wouldn't be able to spend that kind of time away from the office. Because I'll be
needed here to process applications and review forms and that sort of thing. And just
provide general citizen assistance in preservation.
J: That was in 1979 you were hired here?
J: By the C \-_ ?
M: No, actually it was 1980. 1980. I graduated '79. Well, no. That's right. 1980. May
5, 1980. So it'll be, yeah. It'll be three yearsthis May.
J: That was temporary at the time.
M: Yeah, it was.
J: How did you feel about that?
M: Well, I, just like I say, I needed a job. Anything I could get and I was so lucky that
I got that and then they, it did work into a permanent position after the grant was over.
It was wonderful.
J: How long did the grant take?
M: Let's see. We completed that in fiscal year '81-82. So that was September. September
81 is when we finished the grant work. And since that time, trying, we've been trying
to implement the items that came out of the grant project. I haven't told you yet that
we did hire consultants to do, well, I didn't tell you the best part of the story. After
I felt so bad about taking what should have been Melony's job, we hired consultants with
that same grant money and then the consultants turned around and hired Melony.to do the
technical work. So she got to do what she wanted to do anyway. It worked out perfect. It
really did. I was so pleased.
J: No tension between the two of you or any of that?
M: Oh no! Well, Me&ley-'s a real nice person. She, you know, she'll come right out and tell
you how she feels but then she'll follow through as a friend. So we, we got to work
together on the project. It was terrific. It really was.
J: So you were working on the administrative end of it and she was on the technical end of it.
M: She did the historic research. It was terrific. And she did most of the state historic
forms for Gainesville Historic Structures.
J: What did this grant involve? '80-81 grant. What did that involve doing? What kinds of
people you brought in, the kinds of objectives you had.
M: Well, we started out,because of the limited money, we started out with the idea that we
would involve as many volunteers as possible. And we contacted, we sent letters to city-
wide organizations, social clubs like Civitans and the Junior Women's Club, and different
organizations like that, asking them if they would have people that would be interested
in doing some survey work. And as it turned out, most of our volunteers were from Historic
Gainesville Inc. Of course, the perfect role for them to fall into. And I think they
enjoyed the work. Our consultants held a number of training sessions for the volunteers
over at the Thomas Center. And I, of course, that was wonderful for me to get some training
too. Because like I say, coming from General Planning background, I sat in on the training
sessions for how to do surveys, how to identify the different architectural styles, and
it was very helpful for me also. So after those training sessions, we just wentiout in the
field and I did get to participate in that some and that's good. And we identified about
thirty five hundred structures in Gainesville that had some kind, some level of signifi-
cance. In all cases, local significance.
J: What happened after you identified all these structures?
M: Well, it was a two-phased project. The first phase was the survey. Just going around
using the state form, short form, and filling out one of those forms for each of the
t-hirty fiva hdr--d structures. And then the consultants prepared a document that
explained what was found in the survey. And the second phase of the project, then, was
to develop a preservation and conservation plan. Now that we know what we have in
Gainesville, it has historic significance, what do we want to do with it? How do we want
to protect it? So we have now two documents that were prepared by the consultants. Their
name, by-the way, for the record, is Erla, E-R-L-A, and Associates, with the History
Group Incorporated. Both out of Atlanta, Georgia.
J: How did you all do the survey? Did you walk through the homes? Did you look at the
homes just from the outside? Did you take specimens of paint or wood off the building?
M: It was strictly an exterior survey. In fact, the way it was done is first of all, a
couple of the experts from Erla drove around the entire city. It was a city-wide survey.
They just drove the whole city and they looked at the old plat maps to see where original,
you know, the original areas were platted so that they could narrow down the areas that
might have historic sights. And so once the windshield survey was complete, they did then
an intensive survey, knowing which areas to focus in on. And so we divided up our survey
teams; experts with groups of volunteers, and went to the specific areas we felt we might
find something. And just walk the streets. And used a lot of film. We took a picture of
every asde to go with the state form.
J: -Ti;rty i-f~ v ullred pictures?
M: Uh huh. Now in some cases, when we got back to the office, we'd look at the picture and
we'd say, "well, this really doesn't meet the criteria that the National Register has
set forth." And so a form was not completed. So we, on our maps that we recorded each
of the photo numbers twe put a number with the photo on the map. Sometimes you'll see
a code number but it there will be no file. So we have to kind of keep track of that
in our record keeping. It is handy to look at the map and see all the code numbers to
show concentrations of historic sights. But theh we have to go to the files and be sure
where those fall. In other words, now as we go back in our refinement of the surveying
plan and our continuing work, we'll look at those areas that had code numbers, check the
files, and then work on boundaries for historic districts.
J: Were power lines and streets, curved lines, all considered in this grand project or was
it more of considering individual homes and entire areas?
M: Well, there are definitely natural features and man-made features which just automatically
set boundaries on districts in the development of land. In, you know, just simply in
the growth patterns that the city took. And so we,,you know, we would follow those. But
now maybe a second part of your question is that yes, we did look at more than just
structures. We also looked at views or vistas as, for example, on Northeast 1st Street
M: looking south from 8th Avenue is a direct line of vision to the old post office. Which
is a beautiful vista with the trees in the center of the road. So we'd photograph that
and do a file on it. So we looked at vistas and objects. One of things we filed was
the old brick streets that still remain.
J: When you were working with ESE, was the city, were you inL-touch with what the city was
doing about preservation at the time? Was there anything visible being done with
preservation at the time?
M: I was not aware of, I wasn't:iAn touch with Gainesville at all at that time because I lived
out of the city and worked out of the city. It's about, well, at least five miles out of
J: Is it beyond, is it on the west side of 75?
M: Uh huh. Yeah. It's about five miles. Actually five miles west of 1-75. So I really wasn't
in touch with Gainesville at that time. During that, between '73 and, well, yeah, '73 and
'76. Uh huh. That's about when I went back to school. I began to get involved a little
bit in Gainesville while I was in school but of course when you're on campus, it's hard
to stay in touch with...
M: ... reality. (agi L- -\,R
J: Where were you living when you were working for ESE?
M: You know, I moved a lot. I moved to a lot of different places. Lived in a trailer and in
different apartments and with people and sometimes by myself. I just kind of moved
around. But not much in the city.
J: It was out in that general area though?
M: Uh huh.
J: Well out of Gainesville.
M: Yeah. But then, then I began, I had some personal problems. In 1977, my father died.
And then in 1978, and then that was when my, when I was still working at ESE. In 1978,
my mother found out that she had cancer. So at that time, my mother and I moved into an
M: apartment. I moved her from Homosassa, where they lived. I moved her into an apartment
with me in Gainesville and, so that she could have her treatments at Shands. So we lived
together in Gainesville while I was in graduate school. And that was for a year. About
a year. And then after she died in March, '78, I finished up my school and graduated and
then got married. Married in 1980.
J: Who did you marry?
M: N1&nm McLeod. So I went from Perry to McLeod.
J: Was he in school at the time?
M: He was just starting school when we met. Out at Santa Fe Junior College. He'd been in
the air force for four-and-a-half years. So about three years, yOu kinw, we dated for
a year and then he was in school for another three years after we were married. Getting
his degree in Building Construction. And he just graduated this last December.
J: Is he working now for a firm or...?
M: Another ssing. He got a job. He got a job. Wonderful. It's with a company
calle( L_ '- Cons ruction. They build bridges and oh, you know, mixed blessings. He's
in Georgia. So we see each other on weekends now. -4S But he's got a real good job
and he's widening 1-75 bridges between Valdosta and Macon.
J: Sounds like interesting and possibly dangerous work.
M: Yeah. Yeah.
J: A few sleepless nights here and there. So you were involved in this grant with the
city of Gainesville, 1980?
M: Uh huh.
J: Did you ever feel that everyone at the:Hall here was behind that? They wanted to see it
done? They thought it was... something that should be done?
M: The people at the city?
M: The people at the city?
J: The people you were working with.
M: I believe there was a growing awareness of the need for preservation. Definitely.
M: And I really believe it wasn't anti-preservation at any point. I mean with .the staff.
Now of course, I believe the city commissions over the years have made a lot of bad
decisions and we've lost a lot of beautiful buildings. But there's been a growing
sentiment and now, I think, for the first time an official commitment to preservation.
J: An unofficial?
M: A, an official...
M: ...,commitment. For the first time. From the city commission. So, but, and definitely
growing staff support. For example, the building division people now communicating much
more with the planning division people concerning issues, development issues that might
affect historic properties. You know, just checking to be, to see if there is any impact
to historic structures. So we see a lot more communication now between divisions
concerning historic property.
J: What are some of the poorer decisions that the dity commission made in terms of preserving
structures and building or sites?
M: Well, the worst decision ever made was to tear down the old Courthouse.
J: Were they instrumental in seeing that happen?
M: Uh huh. Yeah.
J: Have you been involved in the Hotel Thomas? Or the Thomas Center Restoration Project?
M: That, that project happened before I came. And it's my understanding that Historic
Gainesville)Incorporated is really the party responsible for getting that whole project
going. I think they put up il na...t dollars as just a token to the city to try to
get something going on the Thomas Center. They, they took the first, how do we, option
on the building and then the city took it over. And the citizens convinced the city that
it was worth restoring. And of course the city needed offices so it worked out, it worked
out real good for the neighborhood. It's a focal point in the historic district. And
for the city. Providing the city with offices. I think everyone's been very pleased
with that project. And of course, cultural affairs. That offered a lot of meeting space
for cultural activities. And appropriate location.
J: How large is the staff here today?
M: I'm not sure of the exact number. We have about, I think we are about six planners,
including the managers. And the Department of Community Development must be twenty-five,
thirty people. Somewhere in there.
J: Has that grown since you've been here?
M: No, it stays about the same. About the same number.
J: All of these people are wrapped up in city planning as a whole? Preservation as a side-
line? Or would you say it's more preservation oriented?
M: Oh no. Preservation is just one small segment of the total program. I, I am the only
person that has done preservation work on the staff and I have only been half-time
preservation. And the other half of my time is devoted to general planning. So what
we're, what has been requested now is that my position be designated for full time preserv-
ation planning. But the, the status of that at this point is just that they will consider
a full time staff person in 1983-84. So right now I'm still just half-time preservation.
And that's it for the whole city. Just one half-time person.
J: It's not a huge city-sponsored program by any means then?
M: No. No. But of course, the city commission just spent something like fifty thousand
dollars to put the old clock off the old Courthouse that they tore down out on the corner
so, Yeah. Like I say, I do believe the attitude is changing.
J: What do you think about that clock business? What will they do? Is that significant?
M: Well, you know, it will be enjoyed. It will be very nice out there and it will be a land-
mark.in Gainesville. I always, I always hesitate a little bit when the city spends a lot
of money on a luxury item when there are so many critical needs in our city. So many
deteriorated neighborhoods with dilapidated housing. It just, I can't help but kind of
hesitate on those kind of projects when there's so much need in the city.
J: Did you see a lot of people hurting when you were taking these photographs of these
different areas? Or were .they a more wealthy neighborhood that the grant involved?
M: No. We surveyed all different kinds of neighborhoods. Of course the older housing is
M: typically used by low income people. And then of course, one of the problems with
preservation has been that when the neighborhood turns around and people start restoring
their homes, the low income people have to move out because the costs go up. But that's
called gentrification and it has been avoided in many communities. We, people have
learned how to avoid it. I know Atlanta has a neighborhood they call C _bo_ Town
with a lot of small, historic homes. Shotgun homes, cracker houses, where they've gone
in with a city program and helped the people to fix up those homes but kept the rents or
prices, property values, you know, stabilized so the people could still live there that
did before it was renovated. It can be done.
J: When .was the Historic District, the Northeast Historic District, put on the National
M: I don't have that exact date. I believe it was '78. I'm guessing. I think it was 1978.
J: So that was enacted, that was put on the register before your grant was...
M: Right. That's a very interesting point. Most of the preservation work that's been done
in Gainesville today has been by private effort. The city is just now getting on the
J: Are they catching fire?
M: I believe sol I really do. You know, just the fact that we have a preservation ordinance
and a strong one at that ready for adoption next Monday night. It's a real statement
of commitmenton the city's part.
J: Do you think it will pass?
M: I do. Second reading. Second and final reading is Monday night and it's been through
a lot of public hearings with little opposition.
J: What does it say? What will it do for Gainesville preservation?
M: It says that we can now officially identify sites of historic significance. They will be
placed on a local register of historic places and then protected. They'll be re-zoned.
It'll be through a zoning process and so they'll be labeled. These are areas that.:the
city is going to protect. And there'll be a preservation review board to oversee activities
in areas on the local register. So that when someone living in a local register area
M: wants to do any kind of work on their property or if they want to demolish it or move
a historic sight, they will have to get approval from the review board. And the review
board does have the power to deny a request from a citizen.
J: Let me ask this. It appears that the grant, in 1980, preceded any kind of fire or
stimulation out of City Hall towards preservation in Gainesville. So it looks like it's
the cart before .the horse here, is what I'm seeing. Would you say that's accurate?
M: Well, in many ways, yes. We've had lots of carts before lots of horses on preservation.
And, well, another good example is the fact that a group of people tried to get a
preservation ordinance passed in the early '70s and they were very unsuccessful. Just
thrown out the window. And at that point, the city said that really we needed a complete
inventory of what we have in Gainesville before we try to make decisions about what we
want to do with the historic sites. Let's find out what we have first. So our grant,
grant's manager, Dent McGoo, made application for the grant to do the survey work. It was
very good timing there that, you know, money was available to help communities do that
kind of work. So this was our whole approach. Is to go ahead, get the grant, identify
what we have, and then try to come back with another preservation ordinance. And, and
it has worked. It has worked!
J: Do you think there were more reasons than needing the full search of preservation sites
in Gainesville for the 1970 failure of passing an ordinance? Were there political...
M: Oh definitely.
J: ... considerations?
M: There were definitely and the survey was probably a good excuse. We need a survey and
we need, and it just happened that we got :the grant money to do it. I don't think we
would have done the survey if we hadn't gotten the grant money. So you know, things just
felllin place. And, and again, I don't necessarily think it was anti-preservation but
it just, it seemed so unimportant. New construction was important. Development. The
growth of the city. You know, the economic viability of the city and of course, now
preservation is being seen as a good tool for economic revitalization. So even more
impetus for it to push preservation along-with the tax credits that are available
J: Who asked for the grant money and where did it come from?
M: That was our grants manager. Yeah. Of course, the citizens pushing the city to
do something. Dent McGoo went ahead and made application and we were successful. We
received the grant. It was a matching grant so the city had to show some commitment by-
matching half the money. They didn't have to match it all in cash money, though. There
was in-kind contributions permitted for, as part of the match. So that's where the
volunteers came in. All of the volunteer time was tracked and used as match to the money
that we received from the federal government.
J:' So the federal government sent these grant monies to the city of Gainesville?
M: Right. It was, But the federal money was administered by the state preservation office.
(end of'.first side of tape.)
Sid P. Johnston
Tape number 1
22 March 1983
City Hall, Room 331
Mrs. Sarah McLeod
For the Oral History Project-UF
j: So, one of the people we were talking about was Sam Gowan,
whose been instrumental in Gainesville preservation.
m: Mmm hmm.
j: Uh, do you know him personally?
m: I do. He's on the, ah, current preservation board for the city.
And of course they named one of the rooms at the Thomas Center,
the Sam Gowan history room.
j: Sounds like they like him quite a bit, like they've got a lot
of respect for him.
m: Yes, he was, ah, one of the main people responsible for
getting the Northeast District on the National Register.
j: Do you think that will ever become part of the National Trust?
the, the Northeast District.
m: Well, it, its on the National Register of Historic Places,
and so its tied to the Trust.
m: Affiliated with the Trust.
j: Does it receive monies from the, uh, Federal Government to, uh,
m: I believe . .
j: help initiate restoration with the area?
m: Mmm hmm. I believe a couple of people have taken advantage
of the,,ah, rehabilitation preservation loan fund, uh, and grants
when they were available, but the grants are not available at this
time, and uh, people are taking advantage of the investment tax
credits that are available to, ah, rental, residential, and National
Register Districts, so that's still some kind of federal money.
j: Mmm hmm. Are there any state aids or city aids that are
directed towards Historic Gainesville?
j: So it's through the Federal Government only.
m: Mvmm hmm.
j: Any body in law involved in preservation in Gainesville?
m: Carol Brinson is we, we really owe her apot of thanks for what-
she's done. She, uh, has been with the city now about two years,
and during that time, has, has done the leg-work and technical work
necessary to create and push through, the preservation ordinance,
which is to be adopted next Monday night. She has really, really
done alot of hard work, lot of hard research, ah, just coming out
of law school, and uh, uh, diving in full-force to gain knowledge
about all the other communities in Florida and in the United States
that have, uh, experience in preservation law, gaining from their
experience and, and trying to take the best from all circumstances
to, as applied to Gainesville's needs, you know, adapting those
different techniques to what is appropriate for Gainesville.
And she's done such a good job-that people are, uh, people in the
state and in the Florida Trust for Preservation are considering,
uh, using her ordinance as a model ordinance for the State of
j: So her exposure to state-wide preservation has modified
Gainesville's, preservation has, has changed Gainesville's
m: Well, established it, really,o We did not have a preservation,
we did not have any preservation law, and this is our first, um,
first ordinance on the books for preservation, really.
j: Does she work for the City?
m: Yes, yes. She's one of the city, assistant city attorney's,
and the only who specializes in preservation.
j: Hmm. So she's a graduate of the University of Florida Law
m: Mmm hmm. And of course, um, previous Dean Hunt, who was, uh,
now just a professor, not a dean anymore over at the law school,
and uh, uh, so Professor Hunt and Blair Reeves and Dr. Proctor,
and uh, let's see, I don't want to leave anybody out, there's,
o ir ) the big, of course, the father of preservation, Carl Fise,
uh, are the four or five, however many I named, key preservation
people people from the University of Florida, and of ee, well Sam
Gowan is the Library Administrator. So really, most of the, the
private impetus for preservation has come from people affiliated
with the University of Florida. Now, the one, uh, couple in
Gainesville, not affiliated with the University, who have most
active in actual rehabilitation work, are Dr. Mark and Mary Barrow.
They have restored a number of the very large Victorian homes in
j: Are they within this District, the, uh, Northeast Gainesville
m: A number of their homes are within the District. Their own
home, which they live in, is at the noth-end of the District. Of
the duckpond area, and, but, they do have some homes that they've
restored Southeast District.
j: Were these people that you named involved in the workings of
grant when you went out and took the a~e, photos of these different
buildings and areas, uh, -I lAI Xbbiak
m: No, really, uh, those people were not involved in the actual
survey work. Their students were (1 agh. Yes, their student's,
um, of course, especially Blair Reeves's architecture students
were very interested . .
j: Volunter work?
m: yes, doing some of the volunteer work. Course they've had
different student projects over the years, which, um, altogether
helped us gain background information on Gainesville, and that was
one of our first stops, as far as research goes, when the
consultants- came on, is to go on over to Blair Reeves' library
and check through his student project files, and, and see the kind
of work they had done, done alot of good projects. In fact, one
of their projects pointed out in 1977 that we had a potential
historic district in a low income neighborhood in Gainesville.
The Fifth-Avenue neighborhood. And that has been a very controver-
sial issue, all along peop, many of the, many of the people with
the City and, and many people outside the city feeling that there
just really wasn't anything historic in Fifth Avenue neighborhood,
but lots of evidence to prove that there was.
j: Mmm hmm. Why was that controversial?
m: Well, ah, basic philosophies, um, low-income, va, very small,
uh, houses that showed lots of deterioration, uh, the urban renewal
ideas of the '60,s, just go in, bull-doze it, clean it out,
start fresh. And, uh, so moving from that philosophy to, uh, one
which says maybe, uh, housing projects aren't the best situation,
aren't the best living environment. Maybe if you can save some
of these quaint, little tiny houses in small neighborhoods, uh,
maybe you actually are preserving, uh, part of their culture,
part of the way they really want to live, uh, and saving their
roots and their heritage, giving them a sense of neighborhood,
and, and a pride in their neighborhood, to encourage them to keep,
to keep it maintained once it is fixed up, you know however small
their little backyard is, it's a backyard. And so, you know, it's
been a change in philosophy over the years, and, and now that, uh,
not only, alright students in 1977 saying "There's something
historic out there that needs esideration,", and then our project
in, in '79 through '81, professional consultants saying, "There is
definitely, uh, a theme in the Fifth Avenue neighborhood, that
show, that together the houses show historic, a historic character
of that residential neighborhood as it was originally established."
And then, finally, the state and federal government putting their
stamp of approval on a district that they said was eligible for
listing on the National Register, just kind of sealed it. Um,
the problem, the controversial issue has moved in now to an official
problem, in that with the historic designation of the neighborhood,
and with the city, uh, and because the city is using federal money,
that all means that the city is required to go through an official
review process for any actions they take in the Fifth Avenue
neighborhood. Uh, aLot of red tape, and city doesn't like to have
to go through all that red tape. It means spending money, of course
money that is limited anyway, that is, you know definitely a problem.
You want to spend the money not on red tape, but on doing things in
the neighborhood. So, the city is faced with a dilemma now, even
ecde enforcement, even if the city goes into a low-income neigh-
borhood now, and sees that, that a house is, uh, is a hazardous
structure, you know, uh, they can not condemn it and tear it down
without going through thd review process
m: So, we have to go in there and board up houses and, arid wait
to get through a review process before we can tear them down. So,
then, and, and, then you run into the problem of, uh, demolition
by neglect. These house stay out there and they're boarded, and
they begin to fall down, and you go out and you board them up a
little bit more, and, and if the a~,- you know, if the city doesn't
pursue the review process or if the review process takes too long,
the neighborhood declines, you know, before anybody really does
anything. So, there are alot of catch-22's in that neighborhood,
right at this point. And I realize we've gotten off, kind of, I've
gotten off in, in that, in that special problem we're having right
now, as far as preservation and, and previous city objectives go,
but it is a very critical issue for the city right now, in relation
m: It really is.
j: Is it feasible, or how is it feasible to keep those low-income
families in the neighborhood that is designated a historic 4Er district,
and yet restore the homes at the same time?
m: Now, I'm not real familiar with the techniques that have been
used to avoid what's called "gentrification", but (>E I heard
recently of a speaker you had at the university, can't think of his
name, Thurston(?), who has, who has the idea of an oasis, it's called
the oasis idea, where you take a block, well now he lives right
with the people and learns what their needs are, and how they like
to live, and that sort of thing. But taking one block and helping
them, putting some money into that block, helping those people to do
their own work, and I know that's an important element of it, uh,
do their own work, to fix up their houses. Of course, a parallel
thing that needs to happen along the way, and the city has been
trying to push it, is getting home-ownership in there. That, of
course, makes a big difference. If you can, if you can get the
people to own the homes, somehow helping them buy the homes, so
that you don't have the absentee landlord situation. That, of
course, is the key, underlying element. But in either case, trying
to get a commitment, let's say if it is a landlord situation,
trying to get a commitment from the landlord, that if the people,
with the help of the city,QV, do ordinary maintenance and repair,
the landlord will not raise the prices', raise the rent, so that
the people have to move out, trying to, or sAi I'm sorry I'm
just not that familiar with it, haven't work in the field but
subsidizing, you know, paying the landlord the difference of the
rent that he would like, he'd like to increase his rent, the city
or whoever, comes in and pays him the rest of the money that he
would want to collect. So trying to use all these different tech-
niques to keep the people there, to, an, but most importantly, by
getting them to be involved in their, in the revitalization of their
own block. And to take pride in that, so that one block, just one
at a time, gets fixed up, it sets an example for the blacks around
it, those people start wanting to get involved, they see, they
like what they see is happening, they see that it's not a threat
to their, to their displacement and that sort of thing, and so they
say, "Well, let's try it toe and then it begins to grow, you know,
a chain effect. And, um, I would like to see, I believe we could
see something like that happen in Fifth Avenue, if we just had
enough of the appropriate people get together and, and work it out,
work out the details, to get it moving.
j: Does that entail someone moving in there and being totally im-
mersed in . .
m: Well, not necessarily, um, we have a lot of, we have -assf a
handful of community leaders living right in that neighborhood now,
who would be ready and willing to do something like that. And it
we had a liaison, ah, person, who may not live in there, but is a
good continual contact between the neighborhood and the city, and,
uh, and just get it moving, you know.
j: So, it wouldn't necessarily be the oasis concept of living
with the people, that's one avenue, but another avenue would, would
have these liaisons.
m: Working with the people, who, the leaders. See, this is the
important point, a'leader who lives in the neighborhood. I think.
that's the, the crux of the issue, someone who will keep the ball
j: Is that happening in Fifth Avenue?
m: The leaders who have, um, emerged, I feel they've been frus-
trated. They, they have made accomplishments, but, uh, they've
been single project accomplishments, and not the establishment of
an on-going program. So they, you know they may have been success-
ful, but that success has been stopped. Uhm, we need to, we need
to, uh, help, help them help themselves, an, and of course that's
easy to say, and hard to get going, it really is.
j: What blocks have they run against?
m: Uhm, well I could be getting into philosophy again here, but
city going in, or government )ith" their federal money, going into
a neighborhood, doing lots of projects, and-then leaving. The people
are not involved, so they see lots of things happening, and then
nothing happening, and there's no momentum going, the there's no
reason for them to, uh, their not a part of the process. So they
go on with their previous way of living and, and the social problems
in those neighborhoods continue, they're not dealt with. So the
maintenance is not there, and the neighborhood declines to the
original state it was, it was in before the government work had
j: What are some of these social problems that the neighborhoods
are, that the Fifth Avenue neighborhoods are experiencing, or what
or what kinds of, yes, what kinds of social problems do they, do
they experience, that you see?
m: Well, I'm, I'm out of my realm in guessing in this, but just
k nod "-ebme
from my personal opinion and the limited I- have of it, ah, the
people who have been raised in, in the low-income neighborhood,
at their first opportunity to move out, they do. Any opportunity
to advance, they leave the neighborhood, so .fteB, the people
who would be leaders to turn the neighborhood around, find them-
selves seeking out, uhm, better environments. And so that
environment stays as it is, in a weak state, without leaders. And
of course, you have problems with the, with the establishments in
those neighborhoods, which are conducive to crime and, uh public
nuisance, general public nuisance, but, you know, the bars that are
in the neighborhood. They bring people from outside, who have a
negative impact on the neighborhood. So it's like the neighborhood
is held in its depressed state, by in-going and out-going factors.
And, uh, I don't, I don't know, I don't know really what the solu-
tion is. yihe4- I mean, it's just going to take people who are
committed to pulling in a lot of different, to using IF, to trying
a lot of different solutions, you know, to, to cultivate a different
attitude in the neighborhood. To help people care about themselves
and the way their living, an there you've really getting into
social, uh, I'm out of my realm.
j: Sounds like some very serious motivation that these people
need to be hit with. Are most of the homes in Fifth Avenue owned
by absentee landlords?
j: That's a major issue that needs to be transformed?
m: Yes. Bu,-wha, wel, the city has tried to encourage home-
ownership by the, uh, by the policies that they accept. In other
words, not providing assistance to rentdr-occupied, ar renter-
occupied unit/. And it just hasn't worked; all it's done is
directed the federal money to other areas because people haven't
been eligible in the Fifth Avenue neighborhood. So, uh, this is
another fs, I just don't know the technique that could be used.
j: How is preservation in Gainesville unique or different from
preservation in other places within the State?
m: I'm not that familiar with the, uh, well, now I do know, uh,
one difference is, the State has established preservation review
boards, preservation commissions at key locations, like St. Augus-
tine, so that the State has had a direct involvement in preservation
in,-~oAysio a-m really important historic areas. So, Gainesville
dfa has been doing it on there own, you know, it's, it's been,
uh, the private effort and now that the city's -iimci--e, 1..tM, without
the, a state commission being involved. So it's different in that
j: What do you see in the future for Gainesville preservation,
friends, well uh, has it been sporadic, the growth of preservation,
do you think it will continue'in that way, or in a different way?
m: Well, it's all going to depend still on the private effort.
Even with the ordinance that we are going to have on the books
shortly. If people do not support designating local historic sites,
then they will not be designated. And if they're not designated,
they will not be protected. And, uh, it will, will probably take
the, uh, a traditional pattern that many cities have followed, that,
that, uh, the old makes way for the new. And as we lose more-and
more of the, of the historic sites that we do still have, there's
less reason, there's less remaining to preserve in any kind of
continuity, in any kind of whole. Well, in other worus, we really
don't have many, if any, individual, individually significant
historic sites. They, the sites have significance in collections,
in groups of homes and structures, in districts. The consultants
identified five potential historic districts in Gainesville, in
addition to the one we have already on the National Register. So
six total. But they are, uh, if I can remember them in order of
-as y the Southeast-directly adjacent to the Northeast District,
a small area, that has high potential for listing on the National
Register; uhm, Fifth Avenue, which has already b6 been deemed
eligible for listing, it's just a matter of completing the paper-
work, and we'll have that district on the National Register. Umh,
let's see, University-related area, uhm, forming a semi-circle
around the north-side of the campus, from e+-f View all the way
through the, what's called the "student ghetto', down into, uh,
where Norman Hall and Alachua General Hospital are. Those houses,
uh, might be considered-in what's called a thematic nomination;7I
all university-related, uh, many times using the same kind of brick
as you see at the university campus. Uh, okay, a couple more districts;
the Porter's Quarters district has less probability because it's,
uh, experienced so much decline and so many intrusions. And then
the downtown district, which I'm not sure, I'm not sure which way
that might go. Uh, we have a lot of very important structures
downtown, like the Hippodrome Theater, and, and Cox's, but uh,
there's a lot of develqment pressure downtown, too. It's, the
city has felt, oh, anything, anything at all that we can encourage,
any development we can encourage downtown, for economic revitalization,
because our downtown has experienced what most downtown's have,
because of the malls that have gone outside the city, so I worry
that the people downtown would not want any additional regulations,
that might be imposed for preservation purposes, uh, just to
encourage any kind of development, whether it was for rehabilitation,
adaptive re-use, or new construction downtown. So I'm not sure
what we'll see there. But there's, there is potential in Gaines-
ville for, uh, or the preservation of these special five districts.
Uh, to maintain that special, uh, that special atmosphere that
Gainesville has, and I'm glad I'm thinking to bring this in. It's
not just the houses that it, give, that give that special, uh,
character, it's the landscape, all the trees in Gainesville. And
preservation of these district, includes preservation of the land-
scape, the beautiful trees that holds the district together, that
gives Gainesville its, and so I believe if we can step in the
right direction, however slowly we step, people will catch on,
the awareness of the improtance of preserving these areas, will
catch on, and in, and if it does, ah, in the long term, we will,
we will have a very beautiful community hereothat people will
S~i iQal be proud of, that will actually attract, and uhm, and
bring in the new business we need to-teiB, keep a good economic
j: Where is Porter's Quarters?
m: It's in the near Southwest. Uhm, just, I mentioned Alachua
General Hospital and Norman Hall, it's just a little bit further
east of there, between Depot Road and Main, ahd uh, University.
j: Would that include the passenger station that's not presently
being used on the Seaboard Coastline Railroad?
m: Now that is in the Southeast, that is just a little bit
further east on Depot, just east of Main Street.
j: So it's on the other side of that?
j: Half-mile or further.
m: No, in that range I would imagine, not . .
m: Porter's Quarters is on the west side of Main Street, the
Depot is on the east side, right, on the east side.
j: Okay. Anything happening to that old depot in preservation?
m: Well, uhm, couple people from different departments in the
city have called me and asked me about it, so apparently, someone
has been looking at it for potential re-use, or re-use of the site.
I don't know which. Uhm, but they're also looking at the depot
station on Sixth Street J^1$g for a, actually looking
at the, the entire corridor along Sixth Street, where there's a
shopping center that has a lot of vacant stares in it, then there's
the depot in the center, a lot of warehouses, and they're looking
at the entire Sixth corridor to see if a, uh, revitalization plan
could be implemented.
ALLOW THE TAPE TO RUN AHEAD ON "PLAY" FOR 10 MINUTES, AND BEGIN WITH:
j: Do you anticipate staying on with the city?
m: I hope so laughtere I hope.
j: You said you were up for consideration of full-time preservation,
m: Well, it won't be until, uhm, they'll, well, their g6ing into
the budget hearings now, through the summer, spring and summer,
for fiscal year '83-'84. So that would be in September that the
change might be made. If it's not made, we'll just operate best
we can with half of my time. Uhm, and then maybe as the need grows
they'll, they'll go ahead and put more people on it. I hope every-
thing falls in place for preservation in Gainesville. It looks
good right now; like I say, it's just going to really be up to the
people who participate in the program, who, we've created a tool
now to use, they need to use it.
1: Do you think you can, uh, impact that process more by being
-" I 1
full-time rather than part-time.
m: Oh, definitely.
j: So there is a lot of work to be done?
m: There is a lot of work to be done, it's just, it's just how
much initiative the city wants to take. See, I could, I could be
actually be doing some of the nominations to get properties on the
local and National Register, but the city may not want to spend
time to do that kind of work, thinking that that would be good vol-
unteer work and that my role is more to process the nominations,
as they come in, relaying them to the review board, and then on to
the city commission for approval.
j: Wh, when we say the "city ) who are some of the people that
make the considerations on whether you're part-time preservation
m: Th, well, that's the city commissioner's, uhm hmm. Yes, now
Mayor Junior has, has really, uhm, pushed the preservation program.
He's been behind it. Now he, he had his problems with it. He was
concerned about some of the, uh, some of the aspects of the ordinance,
how it, how it would effect the private, uh, property rights, and
once he got, once he felt comfortable with the program and the way
it was being set up, and he believed in it, once he was sure it
was a good program, he started pushing it, and uh, he's, he's one
of the main reasons that we, we've gotten as far as we have with,
with Carol Brinson's work on, on doing such a good ordinance, and
his political power behind it, you know, we've been successful.
j: What are some of the, uh, private property issues he was con-
M: Well, we're, uhm, we're putting additional restrictions on
property rights, telling people what they can do with their homes,
with the actual work on their homes. And, uh, if somebody wants to
take down their house and build a new house, maybe they should have
that right, you know. But, uh, there have, there are cases now
increasing regularly in the United States, that say the court
ruling that preservation really was for the public welfare. That,
uh, that aesthetic considerations were part of, uh, to be consid-
ered in the public good, the public's interest, uhm hmm.
j: Preservation's spreading then?
m: Most definitely.
j: At .
m: And mainly . .
j: At higher echelon areas?
m: And mainly due to private efforts.
j: Thank you for sharing your thoughts this morning.
m: Well, I've enjoyed it.