Quincy’s F.P. May house gets a revitalizing facelift to keep this historic landmark aliveQuincy’s ‘New’ F.P. May HouseA Restoration With History in Mind Revisits the Town’s Golden Days
By Edie Ousley
When shade tobacco was king, the pastoral town of Quincy quickly rose to become one of the wealthiest communities in Florida. The early years of the 20th century were generous, and the small community entered its golden age.
Those golden years ended when the persnickety plant proved too difficult to grow. But oddly, the tobacco succeeded in cultivating a community where generations of Floridians planted their roots. Thus was the beginning of what we now call historic Quincy.
Located about 20 minutes west of Tallahassee, downtown Quincy offers a refreshing step back in time. While the heart of the old town is centered on the Courthouse Square, it is the side streets that offer a glimpse of how many families lived at the turn of the last century.
Take, for instance, the Franklin Pierce May home located on North Jackson Street – mere blocks from the Courthouse Square. Built in 1893, the traditional two-story Victorian house features the amenities and craftsmanship of an era past.
The May home features five bedrooms, four bathrooms, seven fireplaces, an expansive wrap-around front porch, a service entrance, a breathtaking custom staircase, second-floor balconies, beautiful wood floors and period architectural appointments.
F.P. May, who was born April 2, 1852, and died on July 4, 1937, was the town druggist – a pioneering businessman during his day. The history of Quincy is chronicled in memoirs that he wrote throughout his lifetime.
May’s accounts provide a fascinating history of his early years growing up in Quincy: slavery and emancipation, the end of the Civil War, his marriage, the births of his six children, the construction of his beautiful home, the purchase of his first automobile and the death of his beloved wife.
In his life story, May fondly writes about his new Victorian home, “It was the third house of any consequence built here after the Civil War.”
Indeed, the May home truly is part of Quincy’s history.
Before the house was built, May and his wife, Anna Mary Stockton, lived in a cottage on the property where the two-story Victorian stands today. The cottage, which had previously served as home to May’s parents, was the birthplace of five of their children: Mallory Sanford, Frank P. Jr., Philip, Daisy and Marcia. The sixth child, Mattie, was born in the “new” house.
In 1893 – 28 years after the end of the Civil War – May commissioned A.S. White of Thomasville, Ga., to build the home that stands on the property today. For more than 100 years, it has served as a pillar within the Quincy community.
Modern conveniences, such as indoor plumbing and an improved kitchen, were added to the home in the 1920s.
When May died in 1937, the home was passed down from generation to generation. Even though the home remained within the May family, the building sat virtually uninhabited for the past 23 years. Deterioration set in.
In 2006, a new chapter for the breathtaking home began. That was when Tallahassee builder and remodeler Brian Will and his wife, C.J., purchased the house from Betty May Embry, May’s granddaughter.
Will and his talented remodeling team set out on a mission – to provide the home with the comforts of modern-day living while maintaining the character of its original design.
“Restoring a piece of history is a rare opportunity,” Will said. “The F.P. May home is a significant part of Quincy’s past, and breathing new life into this fabulous home is a challenge that we take great pleasure in.”
With tremendous care, and with the historical knowledge that May left behind in his personal memoirs, Will is transforming the historic home so that it can be enjoyed for 100 more years.
Chief among the renovations are upgrades of the home’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; a reconfiguration of the kitchen and dining areas to maximize and improve functionality; upgrades of interior and exterior construction appointments to increase energy efficiency; restorations of both original second-story balconies; and refurbishment of the front porch to resemble its original 1893 design.
More ornamental architectural appointments are being restored to their original condition, including seven handcrafted fireplace mantels; the elaborate double-back, double-landing staircase; crown molding; the front entry doors; and as many of the original windows as can be salvaged.
Moreover, Will is refinishing the expansive oak and pine wood floors, restoring a butler’s pantry that bridges the kitchen to the dining room, and recycling the pedestal bathroom sink and ceramic tub that most likely were installed during the 1920s when the Mays upgraded their home.
A modern-day kitchen replaces the old-fashioned version that at one time included a wood- or coal-burning cooking stove. Distressed cream-colored Kraftmaid cabinets with a furniture-style look and a dark brown peppercorn-colored island are covered with beautiful, pure natural quartz countertops by Cambria. Stainless steel Kenmore Elite appliances, including the company’s popular new 60-inch refrigerator/freezer, a six-burner gas stove with pop-up down draft and double ovens, complement the refreshingly new and functional kitchen.
Outside the house, Will has incorporated new Elk Prestique Grande three-tab shingles from Bradco Supply to accentuate the steep, expansive roof line. Historically correct Sherwin Williams exterior paint showcases the original wood siding, which was hand-cut and milled in Quincy.
For increased energy efficiency, the Icynene soft foam insulation and air barrier system was added just above the second-story ceiling. This industry-leading product minimizes air leakage, creates a healthier indoor environment and reduces airborne sounds – a must for the Wills, who plan to move into the home with their three young boys.
For Will, an award-winning remodeler, renovating the May home has helped him rediscover his passion for history. He has spent countless hours studying May’s memoirs, interviewing granddaughter Embry, scouring for historic photographs and reading Gadsden County history books. Throughout the renovation, Will has been rewarded with a few hidden treasures, including a shotgun – missing its firing mechanism – found within the home’s walls, and the original coal chute located under the house.
By all accounts, renovations to the F.P. May home are being welcomed by May family members and surrounding neighbors. For Embry, who now lives in Panama City, the renovation of her grandfather’s home has brought her much joy.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” she said. “I thought someone would buy it and tear it down. But Brian and C.J. Will are using exceptional care to restore the home, and they’ve referred back to old pictures of the house and are using them as a guide to restore it back to what it once was.”
Quincy community leaders, neighbors and members of the Tallahassee Builders Association’s Remodelors Council toured the home before renovation work began in the fall of 2006, and they are lining up to see the tremendous finished results.
Award-winning Florida Home Builders Association remodelers from throughout the state toured the home this past March to see the extensive construction techniques and products being employed on the massive renovation.
And the F.P. May home is a featured house in the 2007 Tallahassee Parade of Homes.
Even though the golden age of shade tobacco wealth has long since left Quincy, the benefits of seeds sewn in its rich, fertile soil remain. The newly renovated, 113-year old Franklin Pierce May home is living proof.