One hand-written note, stuffed in a file at the SPAR office, dates our new house to 1904. The original 1,500 sq. ft. house was a two-story vernacular structure with a cantilevered second story that hung over the first floor open-air porch. While there are no photos of the house until the 1950’s, SPAR documents detail various owners as far back as 1912. Owners include two widows, the Bryson Family and the Watson family (both pillars of early Florida). The house sits on a stretched lot only 36 feet wide, but 203 deep. One survey shows the house had a garage (or more likely, a stable), but it has since been demolished.
There have been a series of additions and changes to the house in the last 50 years. In 1962, an owner added a first floor addition to the back of the house increasing the size to 2157 SF. The property was purchased in the 1970’s by an organization called “Church Women United.” From what we can decipher, the Church Women converted it to commercial office space and at some point, enclosed the front porch to create a reception area. Adios porch! At least they installed a bay window with lovely burglar bars. They covered the original wood siding with rectangular shingles and added a set of stairs that provided an exit from the second floor to the west side of the house.
In 1995, the Church Women allowed an agency called the Family Visitation Center (FVC) to use the house so foster kids could have supervised visits with biological parents. In 1999, the Church Women donated the house to the FVC. A grant from the City of Jacksonville funded a renovation that included a new roof, refinished floors and wall repairs. That was the last time anything was done to improve the house.
After sitting empty in recent years, the house was put up for sale in 2016. Lucky for us (and the house), two veteran Springfielders bought it with the intention of renovating it. They began the process of painstakingly undoing decades of odd improvements and commercial changes. By the time we saw the place for the first time, they had removed the plumbing, taken out the busted HVAC system, and stripped the house down to the studs. It was basically a giant wooden box with a roof, a hodge-podge of windows (some in tact, some not) and a few doors. At least it was easy see the original 113-year old wood! The lumber at Lowe’s and Home Depot would blush in embarrassment if they ever met up with this wood.
Shortly after buying, the new owners found their dream house on the St. Johns River. Rather than take on two house renovations, they decided to find someone else who might want to bring this house back to her former glory. Our realtor, who also lives in Springfield, told us about the house before it came on the market. I wasn’t interested. We had not fully committed to Springfield and frankly, the house looked, well, ugly. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. A few weeks later, our friend Jamie (featured here) suggested we give her a look anyhow.
When I walked inside, I started to see what this house could be. The space is fairly open. The hardwood floors are amazing. The roof hasn’t leaked. That’s a start, right?
Thanks to our friends for helping us name the house. There were many terrific ideas, (Pearl, Marge, Gretchen, and Rose were some of our favorites), but in the end, Dorothy sounded right. Dorothy was one of the top girl names of 1904 and is most well known for being the name of the lead character in the Wizard of Oz.
Which is cool, because…
Dorothy is going to show this family that there is no place like home.
Next post: We are gearing up for a tour!