Friday, January 6, 2012

Meet my Neighbors: Preservation SOS

Right on par with my New Year's resolution #4: "Spread the Love", I thought I'd give you a peek at what I did on New Year's Eve since it's all in the spirit of spreading the love, on historic homes and my beautiful and special neighborhood. This "Meet my neighbors" type of post will become a regular Friday Feature here at "Little Old House" and I hope you are as excited to meet some of my neighbors as I'm excited to introduce them to you!

So today I'd like you to meet "Preservation SOS" (SOS is short for "Save our Springfield"). In the rather short time since its inception, this grassroots movement of neighbors fighting to preserve historic homes in our neighborhood has grown by leaps and bounds, not just in numbers and sheer support but more importantly in influence on city legislation and overall awareness of preservation of historical structures in our city.

From stepping up to the plate in boarding up vacant structures and cleaning up neglected lots when legal owners wouldn't (or couldn't) and drumming up support for "Acts of Kindness" that beautified the neighborhood, they have recently grown beyond these smaller, yet so effective measures.

Their press release says it best:

"Historic homes matter in Springfield. This is the crux of the mission of Preservation SOS; saving the houses. On October 16, 2011, Preservation SOS, a Florida not for profit, incorporated an arm to PSOS called "This Place Matters." This Place Matters obtains historic property with active case files,encumbered with a multitude of code violations,and fosters the unloved and misinterpreted home through guardianship. Homes owned by This Place Matters participate in mothballing, code remediation, and subsequent placement (home is sold) in the hands of a willing and able homeowner. Potential owners are provided with restoration estimates, resources to understand historic codes in Jacksonville, and financial consultation with a local, reputable bank.
To donate a home, or refer a home for donation please contact us at, or call 904-335-8SOS, or become a member of our organization and forum at
Donations are tax-deductible."

On New Year's Eve, Little Man and I hopped over to the first "This Place Matters" house, armed with freshly baked cinnamon rolls and coffee for all, to see if we could pitch in for a couple of hours. You know, if we don't feel like painting stuff at our house, I guess we could at least paint stuff at another, right?

Mind you, this house was on the formal track for demolition. A historic home. In a national historic district. That in itself is a crying shame. These houses are built with supplies that are way higher in quality and with a much higher level of craftsmanship that can not be matched these days. They clean up surprisingly quickly and much more easily than expected, but Code cannot wrap its collective mind around it and well ... isn't helping. In fact, it's rather aggressively working against all that is good and noble in regard to these historic homes and would love to see the entire 'hood razed, asap.

Anyways, this is the house at Walnut Court. The previous owner couldn't keep up with the demands imposed by code anymore and finally just gave up. Fortunately, he was willing to go above and beyond what is expected to save this house and donated it to PSOS. I loved it from the first moment I saw it.

423 Walnut Court was originally built as a duplex. It's a two-story vernacular style wooden frame house with a large two-story front porch. According to the property appraiser webpage it was built in 1916 (or possibly earlier, just like the Ugly Duckling) and features 2376 sq ft. living space (not counting the porches).

Here's what it looked like that morning (lots of pictures to follow, including some with half-naked men so stay tuned!)

That's Curt sweeping in front of the house. The front of the house gets lovely dappled sunlight all day long thanks to those huge old oak trees in front of it. Future a/c and heat bills won't be entirely unpleasant thanks to this very energy efficient orientation of the house. Seriously!

Taking a look at the side: notice the nice straight siding. (it's the fence that's sagging). That Grand Old Lady is still rocking an excellent posture! All primed and ready for some fresh exterior paint. Walnut Court is the first house to be officially mothballed (more on mothballing later) i.e., to be secured and boarded up to wait for better times with the blessings of the city officials.

Original entry doors with official paperwork stuck to them.
Wanna go inside?

I know I did! I was DYING to see the inside!

Look at the gorgeous hardware with the floral pattern and the double keyhole! How cool is that? All you need is a knob, and these are easy to come by. Try eBay.

This is the entry hall downstairs. The previous owner removed all plaster walls, painstakingly pulled out every! nail and laid bare the stunning frame work. This is all bolt straight and in incredible condition. Not one funky decrepit stud in sight. And really, that's the hard part. Now all you need to do is add wiring and plumbing and insulation and close'er up with drywall and you're done!
Look at those arches! They make my knees go weak ...

Both apartments (upstairs an downstairs) have an entry hall/vestibule, a living room, a dining room (downstairs with the set-up for a pocket door and upstairs via an archway), a kitchen, a bathroom and 2 bedrooms. The rooms feel open and airy, and this would be a darling property to live in one half while renting out the other half.

Going up the stairs! See? Bolt straight!

In this pictures you catch a glimpse of the first upstairs bedroom and the upper landing. It's killing me that the newel post is sporting the cables for a light fixture! I think this one here would be perfect for that spot, what do you think? Since the upstairs windows weren't boarded up securely yet you get a great idea of how bright and light this space really is. And since all you see is tree tops, you feel very much like you're out in the country side and not five minutes from downtown.
If you look closely you can spy the ghost of the patterned hardwood floors underneath the dust. The floors are in really great shape. Much better even than here at the Ugly Duckling before the repairs. I didn't notice any obvious termite damage and heck, this is Florida. Termites are everywhere.

This is the fireplace in the upstairs apartment. That old water heater is history (Go tankless, I'm telling you!) - good riddance. More lovely floors. The kitchen is in the back behind the fireplace.

The kitchen currently holds a treasure money can't really buy: part of the original trim of the house. I was assured that -all- of the original trim - picture rails, base molding, etc. - was safely stored in a storage pod. Each piece is hand labeled so it can return to its original spot. Can't buy this stuff at the blue or orange box ...

Watching somebody paint a house with a paint sprayer is the ultimate kick. If you didn't already love spray paint before, this will push you over the edge.

Look! Gratuitous bare chest shot! (Nice hard-working guys, both of them)

Stuff like this makes me squeal with delight, I'm telling you. How adorable is this little dormer? Just for a roof vent! Today all they manage is to slap some rectangular boxes on rooftops and call it a day...

The roof needed some fixing, and if you are considering buying this place a new roof needs to be in the budget. Did you notice the rafter tails? So stinkin' cute!

Hard at work: here are just a handful of volunteers who stopped by that day to pitch in (Sam, Nicole, Debbie and Jamie) . More than a dozen came over just on New Year's Eve (and probably still sported paint sprinkles and splatters at parties later that night).

More rafter tails - I'm officially smitten. If this were my house, I'd paint them a contrasting color to draw attention to them. Yes, I'd even climb a ladder.
They'll look sharp.

Little Man helping paint the porch rail on the upstairs porch,
(with Johannes and Gloria in the back).

We have a heart for historic homes: The boards in front of the windows are required to have venting holes, so they are arranged in a heart shape. Every historic home needs some loving, even one without (yet) a forever family ...

Curt painting away on the downstairs porch.

The Grand Old Lady with a new coat of fresh paint. Can you see the potential now?

Photos are never enough so if you want to see this ol' house in person you should swing by on

Sunday, January 8, 2012
at 3:00pm
for an Open House Wine & Cheese Party
at 423 Walnut Court in Historic Springfield, Jacksonville FL.
(click here for directions)

You might even get to meet lil' ol' me :o)


  1. I have never heard of this concept before. It's such a great way to bring your neighbourhood together! You guys are amazing for helping out. :)

  2. Hey Sarah! PSOS rocks - these guys and gals have warrior hearts for our neighborhood and fight for every house. We are happy to be able to pitch in every now and then and we hope to up our involvement in 2012. We have a bunch of really cool groups in our neighborhood; can't wait to show them off!

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