BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A historic Brevard County home has added a new chapter.
The Carter House in Titusville, built in 1915 and designated a historic property by the city, is now a branch for the Boys & Girls Club.
Jo Lynn Nelson, Titusville City Council member and retired prosecutor for the State Attorney’s Office, working in the juvenile division, oversaw a years-long restoration to get the 106-year-old home ready to welcome its new guests.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in this house,” Nelson laughed.
The building at 126 S. Grannis Ave. was in bad shape when the project started, but it was perfect for the future Boys & Girls Club of Titusville.
“It was large, it was in the neighborhood that we want to serve. It’s next to a park,” Nelson explained. “It has the square footage to do just about anything you want.”
Nelson and a group of friends started a steering committee in 2016 with the vision to start a club in Titusville. Nelson said north Brevard had been without a club for years.
The group raised enough money to operate a club for two years. Then it was time to raise funds to restore the turn-of-the-century home.
Nelson and the group carried on despite many people saying it couldn’t be done.
“I was a little naïve as to how much work it was going to take, which was probably a good thing,” Nelson said. “Hindsight, looking back, I was silly enough to say, ‘Yes, I’m going to do this.’”
The home’s history can be traced back to Brig. Gen. Ellerbe Carter and his family, who purchased it in 1945. Carter served in the Mexican Border Campaign and World War I.
Carter was active in the community. He served on the Titusville City Council and became mayor of Titusville as a Republican. He founded the North Brevard Republican Club on the house’s front porch. His wife, Patricia Cloyd Carter, founded the area’s Democratic Party club in the kitchen.
The family donated land for a park next door.
Patricia Carter went on to establish the city’s first free public library. She eventually ran the library out of the home, leaving the front door unlocked for anyone to come in and browse the family’s private collection of books.
Those bookshelves are still there. Nelson hopes to have the shelves filled soon. But the home had been unoccupied for years. It would end up needing extensive wood replacement, a new roof and foundation repairs.
Nelson worked so hard, and with such determination, because she knows first-hand the nonprofit can make a difference. As a prosecutor, she often sent kids to the Boys & Girls Club as part of their sentencing.
“If I punish a child and I’m not part of making that child’s life better, then I’m not really helping. I’m not solving the problem and that child is going to be back. When I send a kid to the Boys & Girls Club I know that they at least have a chance,” Nelson said.
Today, Nelson is proud to show off the home’s open floor plan, large kitchen, music room and library. Her favorite spot: the porch.
“There’s something just really nice about sitting on the porch, having the fan on and talking to everybody,” Nelson said as a steady breeze from the Indian River, just a few blocks away, filled the room.
She was nominated for the News 6 Getting Results Award by friend, Joe Richardson.
“She gets results,” Richardson said. “She proceeded despite everyone else saying this task is almost impossible.”
“We did it,” Nelson said, reflecting on the last six years. “We did something that people told me we could not do. So we did it. Our community did it. The house is just gorgeous. I can see kids in here. I can see them benefiting.”
As of March, Nelson said the club has about 40 children enrolled in several activities, including cultural literacy sessions, music classes, gardening, cooking and the arts.
The club is hoping to hire another employee so they can accept more students from surrounding neighborhoods.