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