What it Means to be “Green” by Bob Yapp

There’s a lot of talk these day about being environmentally “green”. So, what does it all mean and why should you care?

Well, you apparently do care. Gallup’s annual environmental poll in April 2008 showed that 83% of Americans reported they have made either major or minor changes in their lifestyles to protect the environment. 55% of this number was categorized as “minor changes” but it still astonishes me how far we’ve come.

Let’s be clear, nothing is greener than an old house or building. All of the quality material and labor that went into building your existing house has already been spent. In other words, the natural gas, oil & coal used to make the electricity to run the machines to fabricate the wood, stone, brick, concrete, shingles and glass has already been used.

By recycling, renovating, or finding a new use for an older structure, you are using a tiny percentage of the fuels it took to make that house in the first place. The primary goal of being green is to use products that: use the fewest fossil fuels to make, transport and operate; recycle existing materials; pollute the least; create the fewest health risks; last the longest (sustainability).

What’s facinating about this is you’d think the green movement in America was a new idea. To the contrary, the people who started the historic preservation movement over fifty years ago are the true founders. Both a desire to save our architectural heritage and just plain old cost effective, self sufficiency were and are the driving forces behind the main preservation ethic of saving and therby recycling the original materials in our existing built environment.

What could possibly be more green than retaining original old growth wood windows, siding, trim, doors and flooring by continuing their use and keeping them out of our bloated landfills? The replacement window industry calculates they do about 8 billion dollars a year in gross business. Based on this number I calculate over 11 million wood window sashes made from precious old growth trees, needlessly end up in our landfills yearly.

New, less harmfull techniques in cost effective lead paint removal, window restoration and weatherizing are starting to make a dent in the way organizations are rating existing and historic stuctures.

The least green endeavor is to build a new structure. New products by their very nature are rarely green. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t build new and innovative architecture but we need to re-evaluate some of the more common materials in our lives.

For instance, polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl). This plastic is in our cars, flooring, windows, siding, wallpaper, shower curtains, blinds, bathtubs, plumbing pipe, childrens toys and carpet to name a few. Yet, it is one of the least green materials on the planet. It takes petroleum (oil) and chlorine to make this product. The manufacturing process is highly polluting and toxic to living beings.

The center for Health, Environment and Justice has this to say, “PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, commonly referred to as vinyl, is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.”

So, when old house owners repair original materials instead of replacing them, they define what it means to be “green”.

For information on green alternatives to a variety of non-green products go to www.healthybuilding.net or for the LEED green rating standards go to www.usgbc.org

Copyright December 2008. Posted with permission from Bob Yapp. Mr. Yapp is president of Preservation Resources, Inc and The Belvedere School for Hands-On Preservation, both in Hannibal, Missouri. He is a furniture maker, old house restorer, author, teacher, preservation consultant & hosted the national PBS series “About Your House with Bob Yapp”. Bob can be reached at yapperman@msn.com

TPI Website Updates

In an effort to provide easier access to information, we have made several improvements to the TPI website. First, check out the Links page which now has more, and hopefully better organized, links to preservation-related local, state and federal government sites as well as preservation non-profit organizations. We have also added useful links to sites offering historic photographs, maps, and restoration and renovation advice.

We have also added a new Resources page offering preservation books and magazines for sale through Amazon.com. We have selected some of our favorites, including Bungalow Kitchens, A Guide to Historic Tampa, and The Old House Journal Guide to Restoration along with subscriptions to American Bungalow and This Old House. Sales through the website link help generate revenue for TPI, so please consider making a purchase.

2009 Preservation Awards

The application for the 2009 Tampa Preservation Awards is now available. Since 1982, Tampa Preservation, Inc. has been recognizing significant contributions to the preservation of Tampa Bay area historic resources through its Annual Award Program. The Award Program recognizes outstanding historic preservation projects, programs and achievements by individuals and organizations. Awards categories include:

  • Restoration/ Rehabilitation
  • Individual Achievement
  • Organizational Achievement
  • Educational Program or Project

Projects located anywhere within Hillsborough County can be submitted for awards consideration, but must have been originally built prior to 1959. The guidelines for the Restoration/Rehabilitation award include consideration of sensitivity to the historic integrity of the site following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Rehabilitation. Preference is given to projects that exemplify Tampa Bay’s cultural, historical, and architectural heritage.

All winners will be honored at the annual awards ceremony and reception and are given a certificate suitable for framing. Winners in the Restoration/ Rehabilitation category are given a Banner to display on their building.

For further information call Tampa Preservation, Inc. or go to www.tampapreservation.com for details and to download an awards application. Applications are due by February 28, 2009.

Eastern Hillsborough County Post Office Towns

On July 22, 2008, the Board of County Commissioners designated the Knowles House, a two-story, symmetrical Frame Vernacular-style house, as a historic Landmark. The circa 1915 Knowles House was constructed from local heart pine timber by Robert H. Knowles. This house is clad in clapboard siding and is topped by a pyramidal hipped roof. A hipped roof also covers the screened main entrance porch, which wraps around the south and west sides of the building. Vernacular houses with square plans were commonly built with pyramidal roofs during the early decades of the 20th century. These roofs required more complex framing, but were less expensive to build since they needed fewer long-spanning rafters. Through the use of the heart pine timber and the incorporation of a sleeping porch and a wraparound porch in the design, the Knowles House exhibits construction materials and design adaptive to the Florida environment.

Robert’s father, Henry Marion Knowles, was appointed “Postmaster at Oaklawn, in the County of Hillsboro, State of Florida” by the Postmaster General of the United States of America on June 10, 1902. In 1908, the post office was renamed after the Knowles family. When Henry died in 1910, his son Robert H. Knowles, one of eight children, took over the Postmaster position. The Knowles post office closed on June 15, 1915, and the postal service was moved to the nearby Valrico post office. Knowles appeared on a 1917 map from Mawson’s Geographic Manual and New Atlas and on a 1920 U.S. Railroad Administration map.

The Knowles post office was one of many in Hillsborough County that is no longer extant. One of the earliest post offices in the County was the Alafia office, established in 1855. The Alafia community was initially settled through the Armed Occupation Act of 1842. Fort Alafia, a garrison and supply depot, was established in 1849, and the army constructed a crude road from Fort Alafia to Fort Brooke, contributing to the growth of the community. Fort Alafia was closed by 1859, but the community continued to grow, in part due to the lumber industry. The Alafia post office was discontinued and reestablished several times until 1920, the same year that Alafia’s Warnell Lumber and Veneering Company closed, and the mail finally was routed to Durant.

In eastern Hillsborough County, one of the most enduring communities has been Brandon. The Brandon post office was established in 1890, with Victoria M. Brandon as the first postmaster. It owes its success in part to its proximity to the railroad. Other communities along rail lines also prospered, at least for some period of time. The last part of the nineteenth century saw a boom in railroad construction in Florida, and with it, a population surge. Between 1880 and 1886, 1,200 miles of railroad track were laid in Florida. In 1880, Florida’s population of approximately 270,000 resided predominantly north of the Tampa Bay area. By 1890, the rail lines extended south of Charlotte Harbor and Jupiter Inlet.

In 1883, Henry B. Plant connected the South Florida Railroad from Lakeland to Port Tampa. Post offices at Mango, (est. 1880), Seffner (est. 1884), Sparkman (est. 1884), and Sydney (est. 1882) were located along this rail line. Mango and Seffner remain identifiable communities today. The Sydney office was renamed “Cork” in 1884, and its name was changed again to Dover in 1890. The 1891 plat of Dover centered on the rail corridor, and the community rapidly became known as a shipping hub for nearby farms.

Another community in eastern Hillsborough County to change its name early in its existence was Fish Hawk. The Fish Hawk post office was established in February 1902, with Sarah T. Boyett as the postmaster. Two months later, Fish Hawk was renamed after the postmaster’s husband, Thomas Boyett.

The Florida Central & Peninsular system completed its rail line from Plant City to Tampa in 1890. This line ran south of the South Florida Railroad, through the communities of Turkey Creek, Sidney, Valrico, Brandon, and Limona. Of these communities, Limona was the earliest with a post office, established 1878. The post offices at Sidney, Valrico, and Brandon were established in the same year that the Florida Central & Peninsular rail came through, and the Turkey Creek office was established two years later. Other communities in eastern Hillsborough County, like Keysville, Hopewell, Lillibridge, and Welcome, prospered along the rail lines built to serve the lumber, timber, and phosphate industries.

Communities large enough to require a post office also sprang up along the rivers, which provided a transportation network well before the arrival of the railroad. A post office was established at Peru, on the south bank of the Alafia River, in 1879. Peru experienced substantial growth when phosphates were discovered along the river and the Peruvian Phosphate Company built a plant on the north side of the river. However, river mining proved to be less lucrative than land mining of phosphate. The post office was shut in 1900, and the mail was routed through the Riverview office, which had been established in 1891. Riverview thrived, mainly because of the lack of a bridge across the Alafia River to Peru. A bridge was constructed in 1901, and by the 1920s Riverview had expanded to both sides of the river and consumed Peru.

Article by Elaine Lund

From the Open Porch of The Nest

Photo by Gregory Walden

In 1992 the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners passed a Historic Preservation Ordinance, and in September of 1993 recognized and designated the County’s first historic Landmarks. Among the very first was the Moseley Homestead, affectionately called The Nest. It was designated for its adaptation to the Florida climate and as an outstanding Florida vernacular house surrounded by diverse vegetation. It is interesting to look back and see that this designation stands today as valid as it did then and to see how much the past can illuminate the present and the future. The Nest is now under the auspices of Timberly Trust, Inc., a nonprofit organization set up to care for it and carry out its mission of education and preservation. For a peep into this land the following is taken from a recent letter:

“From the open porch of The Nest, a unique historic Florida vernacular homestead dating from 1886, you can look out into the native woods of old Florida, hear red birds chirp, see a zebra butterfly, or watch the sun’s long beams make patterns against the walls. Reflecting on this house reminds us once again how much we can use the past and how uplifting that trip can be. For here are represented wise uses of energy efficient ideas. The house is built up off the ground, with high ceilings, cross ventilation, corner windows, high vents, sunscreens, and above all a large central open porch, open in four directions to catch any breeze on a hot day. With the increase of interest in saving energy, and the economy on everyone’s mind, ideas implemented in the design of this house built in 1886, have much to teach us about sustainable design.

For these reasons and for the beauty and history of the place, visitors, faculty and architectural students from the University of South Florida come to study the house and experience it and the diverse native vegetation surrounding it. Combined with adaptation to the Florida climate are decorative ideas influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, predominately exemplified by the wall covering of the main room. It is called The Palm, so named for the covering made from the native palmetto fiber and decorated with a vine motif and serving also as an insulation element. The house and interiors were designed by Julia Daniels Moseley, the artistic wife of Charles Scott Moseley. He was a notable watch inventor of the 19th century who settled here in 1882.

Julia’s idea for the house was that of letting the outside in and enjoying and taking full advantage of the Florida climate. That she achieved this is distinctively shown here. You can read the early history of The Nest in our book “Come to my Sunland”, published by the University Press of Florida. The Nest is recognized in the National Register of Historic Places and is a Hillsborough County Historic Landmark.

Our ongoing programs include preservation and management of the property as well as gathering of historical data on the house and its surrounding community. Preservation and interpretation are key to all we do. Recently we have been reviewing the status of tentative land use management plans for the native growth around The Nest and guiding tours of architectural graduate students from the University of South Florida.

As a result of our educational work, we have inspired a graduate student to do a Master of Architecture thesis on Florida vernacular houses using passive air cooling and other energy saving methods. We helped another graduate student expand an oral history program into detailed history of Limona and the Delaney Creek water system. We have provided information to historian James Denham of Lakeland Southern College on Victoria Brandon, who in 1890 gave 40 acres to establish Brandon. This resulted in a chapter on a book of notable Florida and Georgia women by historian Cantor Brown. We worked with Alexander Ratensky, formerly Dean of the University Of South Florida School Of Architecture, to save old glass negatives tentatively identified as in the Limona area. We have savored the remarks of young visitors who described The Nest’s canopied entrance drive as the “Time Tunnel”, and of another who asked, “Is this a rain forest?””

The Timberly Trust Inc. is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization committed to preserving The Nest and its significant historic natural landscape. Donations large or small are extremely important for us to maintain our 501(c)(3) status and would be greatly appreciated. All contributions add to the test for community support that the IRS reviews. With the support of people like you we can continue to keep The Nest’s heritage reaching out in these challenging times. If you would like to make a donation please contact Martha Sherman at mshermanarchitect@msn.com.

Article submitted by Julia Moseley

Great American Teach-In

Tampa Preservation, Inc. participated in the Great American Teach-In this past November. Six fourth grade classes of excellent, eager-to-learn students at Forest Hills Elementary learned about Tampa’s rich history and heritage through the book If Our House Could Talk, featuring the 1914 National Register listed Leiman-Wilson House located in the Hyde Park Historic District.


TPI Education Coordinator and the book’s author, Robin Gonzalez, shared items that she bought on EBay, including stereo-view cards from the Spanish-American War, along with lemonade glasses and a cut glass vase bought at a yard sale from the previous Leiman-Wilson House owners. When asked by one student why anyone would want these old things, Mrs. Gonzalez replied, “I think you just want a little piece of history.”


After reading the book and a lot of Question and Answer time, each student received their own copy of the book to keep. Mrs. Gonzalez asked that they all think about becoming preservationists, and judging from their conversations, some of them are already picking out buildings that need their help!


* If Our House Could Talk is a TPI publication that young and old alike can enjoy. It makes a great Holiday gift or stocking stuffer. The book is available for purchase at Inkwood Books, the Henry B. Plant Museum Store or through TPI for larger orders.