Friday, October 23, 2009

Come to My Sunland: Brandon, Florida

There is a patch of woods on busy State Road 60 in Brandon, Florida, an anomaly among the car dealerships and strip malls. There is a home, built in the 1800s by Julia Daniels Mosely which she named The Nest, that still stands today in that patch of woods. It is the private residence of Julia Winifred Mosely, granddaughter of Julia Daniels Mosely, and it is almost exactly the same as it was when the original Mrs. Mosely lived there. At that time, this area was known as Limona.Looking out from the driveway of The Nest, home of the Mosely family, toward State Road 60 in Brandon, Florida. Six lanes of constant traffic. Would you believe this is the road at the end of the driveway in the forest? SR 60
Signs read, No Trespassing and Private Road. We proceed with trepidation, hoping to be found friends, not intruders. Afton's mother and father have visited with Ms. Mosely years ago, but we have no appointment or recommendation to drop in on her private Friday morning.We find ourselves in a dramatically different landscape, just 1/2 mile from the highway. Even the traffic noise dissipates. We've gone back in time.Standing on the front porch of the house which seems to blend into the woods, I pull the ring attached to a long string attached to an old rusty bell. We wait for what seems like five minutes and a second ring brings a kind older face to the window. Ms. Mosely smiles and waves and we breathe a sigh of releif, though still a bit nervous until she opens the door and we explain that we have read her book, Come to My Sunland, a compilation of her grandmother's letters and the history of The Nest and life in wild, rural 1800s Florida. We just wanted to see the house and tell her how much we appreciate what she is doing to preserve it.Ms. Mosely used to be a piano teacher. She keeps a guest book on the piano which we were happy to sign. The painitng is by her grandmotherJulia. The columns of the fireplace are palm trunks.The most famous aspect of The Nest may be its unique wall-covering. In keeping with the house's innovative use of vernacular materials, all things found in the wilds of 1800s Florida, Julia knit palm fronds together to form a kind of wallpaper and painted vines and flowers as a final decorative touch. Ms. Mosely is seeking assistance on how to preserve the wall coverings.
We were invited to sit on the veranda, an open space between enclosed portions of the house. It's like a "dogtrot" but open to receive breezes from four directions.
Ms. Mosely notes the photos of this house in Afton's copy of Come to My Sunland. She kept her hand at a pad of paper as we talked and we both drew maps as she spoke of the road projects she has averted from her home and I spoke of the urban plan of Savannah and it's squares.
The original board and batten, painted red and yellow, were covered by cedar shakes in the 1900s. A silhouette painting of a picnic, the picnickers going out for the day (right) with energy and anticipation; the picnickers coming home after the day's picnic (left), tired.Ms. Julia Winifred Mosely is an amazing woman. She lived a full life and had several different careers before settling into her destined role as the keeper of The Nest and the Mosely legacy in Brandon, Florida. She is continuously engaged with historians, architecture students, planners, and neighbors as she seeks to preserve the special history of her home and her region. She has amassed a lifetime of stores which she freely shared with us. I will not share them here, they are hers. Afton and I agreed that someone must tell her story, as she told the story of her grandmother in Come to My Sunland.Original outbuildings exhibit the old board and batten siding which covered the house, in red and yellow.
If you'd like to know more of the Mosely Story, read the Book and check out these links:
Come to My Sunland, by Julia Winifred Mosely and Betty Powers Crislip
History of Ten-Mile Lake, beside the Mosely Home


Jane Cofer said...

Just found your write up of The Nest while browsing on the internet. What a good write up and I congratulate you on the pictures. I remember with delight the visit of you and Alston. If you are this way - Stop in again.
The best, Julia Moseley

Toni Noto said...

I stumbled on this excellent article and photos of Ms. Moseley's home. So many wonderful memories stir while reading this. I sat under that magnificent painting while taking piano lessons from Ms. Moseley... she may remember me, not sure though, I always loved boots and she may recall the black patent leather boots I often wore to lesson. After lesson Ms. Moseley would sit down with me in her library and talk I recall how genuinely interested she was in my thoughts, ideas, and how school was going for me - I felt she truly cared. Whenever someone asks me who most impressed my life, Ms. Moseley's name is always at the top of my list. I remember her fondly and would love to have a copy of the photo with the painting and the pianos... These are cherished memories for me.

Toni Noto

p.s. I am still practicing the piano.

Paul Putzier said...

Those are wonderful photos and posts for The Nest and my friend Julia. Thank you. I was introduced to Julia Moseley by a work colleague, Scott Stevenson. Scott knew I was looking for a piano teacher, but by introducing me to Julia back in the mid-1980’s he introduced me to so much more: a wonderful, deep, caring woman, with incredible roots in our Florida history – AND a piano teacher. Julia gave me fond memories of sitting in the great room, side by side with her, working through my lessons, and then talking about ecology, her family, plants & water, and of course the unique and beautiful wall coverings made from palmetto fronds. I knew a portion of the wall was taken down and transported to Chicago for the 1893 World Fair – and it was this knowledge that lead me recently read a fine book about the fair, called “The Devil and the White City”. I kept thinking of Julie’s relatives (grandmother?) as I read about all the crafts and works for art created by women and brought from across America to be displayed at the fair.

I now live in Minnesota, but saw Julia a couple years ago during a visit to Brandon for a funeral. What a treat! And, when close friends travel to the area, I often ask them to stop in a visit and say hello. My wife and I continue to contribute to the Timberly Trust, a non-profit that supports the preservation of “The Nest”. I wish all the best to our dear friend, Julia.

Krish Pillay said...

As a resident of Brandon I always wondered what lay in that beautiful forested area in the middle of a bustling area? Now I know. Thanks for the story.

Krish Pillay, Brandon Florida

Bonnie said...

Ms. Moseley and Kirsten: I periodically take out my copy of "Come to My Sunland" and pour over Julia's life one more time. I found the book on vacation on the Florida Keys. As a collector of women's journals, and love to read any; Julia's is so outstanding. I'm a former resident of both coasts of Florida, as a child and adult. The 'old Florida' as I call the places I knew as a child...reflect in Ms. Moseley's property today. The instant the photos of the car on the blog led back the lane to time forgotten, I was enchanted anew with Julia's evocative writing. Most of the comments give new insight into what has happened since the first Julia lived there....piano teaching, a remarkable, memorable woman by those she taught, and has met. Oh, if in Florida, Ms. Moseley may I call on you? Fondly, Bonnie Speeg

Bonnie said...

I bought "Come to My Sunland" in a bookstore on one of the FL keys in 1999. I was instantly enchanted....with Julia D. Moseley, with her capture of the 'feel' of what I call Old Florida. This is an excellent article on a follow-up for me, to see what's happened since the first Julia lived in The Nest. Seeing the lane directly off a 6-lane highway took my breath away. Seeing Ms. Moseley at the table, I could see Julia D. in her. The two pianos in the photos are exactly suited to what has occurred since the wonderful words were put down over a hundred years ago. To see Ms. Moseley's student write their memory of her piano lessons is a wonderful addendum for me. If I'm back in Florida, Ms. Moseley, I hope I will find you there. Thank you for the article.
Bonnie Speeg

Pedal Pumping said...

Fantastic article I grew up in Brandon just down the road near Limona School. I moved away for 14 years after Graduating high school. I find myself searching for as much historic information about the area. Stories about the Lakes interest me. I am concerned about the impact development has had on the environment. I feel as though over development has happened and there is no concern for the impact of how fast development occurred not giving anytime for the environment and nature to adjust as well as not allowing the people to learn how to live in harmony with Nature. The growth and development not being restricted in some form caused so much to get over run and destroyed. Does anyone have any historic information on Lake Mango ?

Rebecca Murray said...

I've always wondered what type of house is back there. I'm very much into the history of Brandon and Limona and never knew about this. I'll have to see if I can find this book. Thank you so much for sharing this article.