Sustainable construction is hardly a fresh concept. In Gainesville, Florida, there’s no better example than the structures made out of chert, a type of limestone quarried locally. Builders first turned to the material during the Florida land bust in the late-1920s and it saw widespread use during the Great Depression through World War II. Its use declined after the war, but by then it had already become a recognizable part of the city and builders still periodically use it as an architectural embellishment.
Today, some of best chert building examples are located in historic districts, but many others aren’t protected. Most were built near the University of Florida campus and were demolished in recent years as the neighborhoods surrounding UF experienced a housing boom. That has cooled off, but many of the cherts are still in need of protection because of their importance to Gainesville’s architectural heritage.
Since February, I’ve been putting together a chert thematic historic district nomination for the Gainesville historic preservation officer. Because the buildings are scattered throughout the city, I was lucky that there was already a list with their locations. The first step was to go to the county property appraiser’s site and print out the information available on each building. Then I started filling out a Florida Master Site File form for each structure using the information from the property appraiser. Next was the tedious process of photographing every structure — there’s about 150 of them. I recently completed that, and now I’m completing all the Florida Master Site File forms.