MELBOURNE, Fla. – A historical house in Brevard County seems to be in danger of being torn down.
Built in 1896, the Green Gables home in Melbourne is said to have been the first house constructed with the bathroom inside.
“It gives you a sense of direction,” said John Daly, a resident of Melbourne Village and an avid history researcher. “It’s good to know where you want to go but it helps also to know where you’ve been, and that’s what a house like this will tell us.”
Daly discovered Green Gables in 2008 while researching for a survey about historical resources in the community.
“It’s still owned by the descendants of the family that built it but they had stopped using it when the house was damaged in 2004 during the hurricanes,” he said. “By 2014, the house had become a bit more deteriorated and they had made the decision: ‘We should just tear it down.'”
Soon after hearing the news, Daly and a friend started to work with the family's representatives and city officials to save the house from the wrecking ball. A day before it was supposed to be demolished, they reached an agreement.
"We would cover the expenses so the family wouldn't be out-moneyed during the period that we were working on it," Daly said.
Since then, volunteers with Green Gables at Historic Riverview Village have been organizing fundraisers to purchase the property and restore it. Eventually, they want to turn it into a history museum and a community center.
“By preserving this property, we get to keep a bit of a pointer to our culture, a sense of Melbourne’s heritage and a bit of green space where people can (go) and enjoy a little bit of nature,” Daly said.
The two-story, Queen Anne-style house belonged to a wealthy couple from New York: William and Nora Wells.
"He came with engineering knowledge and with a fair amount of money from his own business. She came with an appreciation of culture and of history," Daly said.
The nonprofit already has a pledge from the home’s owners -- descendants of William and Nora Wells -- of approximately $235,000, but they still need to raise a significant amount.
“For us to purchase Green Gables, we are applying for a special category matching grant, which is $500,000,” Marion Ambrose, president of Green Gables at Historic Riverview Village, said. “We still need $285,000 that would cover the cost for the matching grant, plus closing costs.”
The house is a Brevard County gem located along the Indian River near downtown Melbourne. For the nonprofit organization, preserving it will serve as a reminder to future generations.
“The early founders of Melbourne -- (it) wasn’t easy when they came here. They worked hard, they donated a lot. The Wells family alone donated Wells Park and built the first auditorium and the first high school,” Ambrose said. “They did so much for our community to pave the way for us to be the great city that we are now. I think we owe it to them and to ourselves to remember the past. We have to learn from the past to be able to build on the future.”
The foundation set a deadline of April 2020 to raise the $285,000 they still need to purchase the home. In order to raise funds, they regularly hold events and open the house for tours every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Click here to help with their mission in preserving Green Gables.