Gainesville’s Chert Houses

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.

Most of Gainesville’s chert houses look something like this with red brick quioning, circular vents, a few front gables, and a prominent front chimney. Most are one story and about 1,000-1,500 square feet.

Here’s a simpler example. Exposed eaves is another common feature.

Despite being a student rental, this good example is in fairly good shape.

This Craftsman is one of the best examples and probably my favorite. The brick addition to the right blends in well and the front yard is a well-kept garden.

Here’s one without quoining.

Brittany cottage inspired.

Tudor Revival meets chert.

The largest and most unique example.

I believe this house from about 1925 is the earliest chert structure. Notice the rock is more square than the previous examples.

Not all the chert buildings are houses. Here’s a Mission Style church.

There’s even a chert motel.

The Golfview Estates gates.

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17 Comments

Filed under Florida, Preservation projects

17 responses to “Gainesville’s Chert Houses

  1. Jen

    Thanks for the photos and explanation of what “chert” is! I stumbled across the term on the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation when “Gainesville” caught my eye – only then did I learn that the chert structures in Gainesville (where I live) are on the “Florida Trust’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites for 2009.” Of course, I had no clue what a “chert structure” was, and my subsequent Google search led me to your blog. And thank you for putting in the time-consuming work of helping preserve these homes and other buildings; it’s only because of you and others like you that we have any of “old Florida” left to share with our children and grandchildren.

  2. Tracy Marino

    I just stumbled across your page, which I had sooner, I am an interior designer taking a historic pres class online at SCAD and needed to find a stone house and had a lot of trouble, I did find one and thought you should add it to the photos here, its at 644 NE 10th Place, and it is currently up for sale by owner. Thanks for the info on chert!

  3. Shannon

    Hi! I work for the Florida Master Site File and we recently had a request for information about chert houses. You noted that you were working on forms, have you submitted them to the FMSF yet? We would love to get copies of them if you haven’t. Please send me your contact information as we would like to learn more about this project. Thank you!

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  5. Nancy Regar

    I own a chert house near downtown Gainesville that is suffering from myriad restoration/rehab needs and I need help finding solutions. Please contact me if you think you might be able to put me in contact with people who might be able to save my precious bungalow, located at 903 NE 10th Ave., on the corner of NE 9th St and 10th Ave. Thank you! Nancy Regar, owner(for now, anyway!)

  6. Nancy Regar

    Thank you — I will contact him!

  7. Wonderful survey! Growing up in Gainesville, I know many of these site quite well!

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  9. Thank you for posting this info. My uncle, Roy Gilbert Ramsey, was a builder in Gainesville in the ’20s and built some of these homes. We had his house plans for years, and I loved pointing out the ones I thought he built since they are unigue! Did not know the words “chert” and “quioning” so am glad to learn that! He also was a builder on the original PK Yonge School.

    • gatorpreservationist

      Do you know if he built the ones with the red-brick quoining?

      • Yes, he did. There is one on NW 13th Ave, that I know of.

      • gatorpreservationist

        If you don’t mind, I would like to share your information with the city of Gainesville’s historic preservation officer. She has been seeking more information on the chert house craftsmen, and the bricklayer who used the red brick did the best work.

      • Certainly. I wish I could tell you more. Gilbert was married to my father’s sister, Elizabeth Thorpe, and they were divorced, so I never knew him. He was the brother of JC Ramsey who was sheriff of Alachua County. JC’s wife is still living on the Suwanee river, I believe. Gilbert’s daughter is the one who told me that he helped build PKY. She attended there a few years.

  10. I’d like to use chert stone veneer on a new building. Do you know where to get chert stone, and/or who can install it properly?

  11. Kristine

    Hi, we are the owners of your favorite Craftsman. I’ve just been trying to find more historical information on the home, though the original owners kept quite a file that subsequent owners kept in good shape and passed along to us. Thanks for the additional info, and I’ll keep hunting!

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