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Florida town rescues Green Gables historical home

        The Green Gables house is a historical house that needs help from the public. In 2016, The Green Gables mansion was rescued from destruction and placed on the National registry's historic homes. The acquisition didn't come easy to the people involved.

Green Gables was built in the Queen Anne architecture by William and Nora Welles as a winter home. The home was the first to have electricity and indoor plumbing, according to Gene Albertson, the volunteer coordinator. According to Sue Fallon, the vice president of Green Gables, William and Nora were a big deal in Melbourne's community. Fallon said The Welles family donated the property and provided the building, teacher, and the curriculum. The first high school formed in 1896 in Melbourne. The family assisted in moving the Holy Trinity Church and much more civic construction around the Melbourne area.

         Mr. Wells had the house constructed for Nora's pneumonia during the winter months. The warm air seemed to keep her from contracting pneumonia.

William built Green Gables on 150 acres along the Indian River. He also planted mangrove trees along with the property.   While this did protect the house from many storms, the house did receive some damage over the years, particularly on the roof and walls. 


     The house is only one of two houses of Queen Anne architectural homes left in the United States that can be restored. The house was also the first home in Florida to have hurricane shudders on the windows. According to Marion Ambrose, the committee is currently collecting period pieces such as pianos and furniture. Now, no renovations are being done to the house until it is fully purchased. When the restoration committee acquires money for the full restoration, they will restore it one room at a time.

Green Gables, along with other historic homes, are in danger of being torn down. According to Eric Musgrove, a historian," It is essential to save historical structures and monuments for us to remember and connect to the past. "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat its mistakes" - we need to learn about our past to help our present and future and remember the brave sacrifices and efforts of those who came before us. Historical buildings and monuments give us a tactile reminder of the past."  

In 2014, a struggle was forming to put Green Gables on the National historic landmark. A group of volunteers stepped up to fight to save Green Gables from destruction. The group had to raise 20,000 dollars to get it on the list and then another 800,000 to purchase it fully. In 2016, the group's efforts paid off and through many fundraisers, with BeUneke magazine and a documentary film called The Forgotten Enchantress.

          According to Jennifer East and Mary Brotherton, the Creative Director and Editor of bUneke was invited to be on a radio talk show called Viewpoint with Seeta and Friends because Seeta had been watching the growth of bUneke. She also asked Marion Ambrose and Sue Fallon to the same show. As the presidents and vice presidents of these two nonprofit organizations, Seeta thought it might be nice to have two different charities on her show. That's when bUneke first heard of Green Gables. Jennifer and I exchanged a look that meant, "We have to help!" Our first thought was that we'd write an article, and since I already had information, I wrote our introduction to the old house, but that immediately felt inadequate. I invited Marion to come on our podcast to talk about the historic home, and the more Jennifer and I learned, the more we wanted to do. Within a short time, Jennifer had written a script and started gathering the people and resources necessary to create the documentary Forgotten Enchantress. bUneke had an outpouring of volunteers who contributed to this project, and we consider it one of our crowning moments. Many bUneke volunteers have continued to volunteer with Green Gables, and some Green Gables volunteers have crossed over to also assist with bUneke's goals.

          The volunteers were continuing to receive donations after the initial 20,000 dollars were raised. Volunteers and the community of Melbourne were pitching in with funds when a giant monster hit, COVID-19. The house tours canceled indefinitely, fundraisers canceled. Once again, Green Gables endangered also. According to Marion Ambrose, "Green Gables has no other into this really cut into our operations account, and many of our dedicated members kicked in to help us cover our $1600 a month expenses (taxes, termite bond, insurance, utilities,etc.), We are now working double time to raise funds for operating expenses and build our restoration fund."


        According to Gene Albertson, a board member, "Thank god for bUneke and the Forgotten Enchantress film! Halting all our events and open house tours seemed for a moment like a disaster!! However, prayers, love, teamwork, and social media blitz finished the job!! 

The entire effort succeeded through the heart. The community as a whole chipped in a few dollars at a time, some a lot of dollars, when the tide began to swell, the more immense interests saw us, and we became known far and wide in a short time." .


       Green Gables still has a lot of obstacles to overcome; the city of Melbourne is willing to go through. The volunteers opened up their operations in September to the public. House tours are currently held on Saturdays with in-person fundraising starting up. 

"We have a Sunday in the Park event on Sept 13Sept 13 for families, which is a free community event, but then we have a Harvest Festival and Craft Fair on Oct 3, a Haunted House event on Oct 23,24, 30 and 31, which we hope will bring in a good amount of income. In December, we are one of 6 historic homes participating in a Christmas Tour of Homes, and we have a Renaissance Fair planned for Dec 12Dec 12. In November, we have another Sunday in the Park where local photographers will be displaying their work and entertainer Trilby Saidana will perform." According to Marion Ambrose.  

              Eric Musgrove said it correctly, "I believe that historical structures must often be "modified" to suit existing commercial infrastructure and as little change as possible. Some buildings can become museums, but others must be used for growing businesses, etc., mainly to keep historic downtown areas alive and drawing crowds. Our Courthouse is over 115 years old and historical, but it has been modified to serve the community. Other buildings have seen similar changes while retaining the majority of their historic features."

               The volunteers of Green Gables proved one thing it is not impossible to raise funds to save something important. According to Sue Fallon, "We are not only fighting to save Green Gables but protect William and Nora Welle's legacy." Generations old and young have lent their time and efforts to protect Green Gables and what it stands for continuously.

Gene Albertson also weighed in on the importance of Green Gables, "Green Gables is saved by teamwork. Every individual involved brought what they had to contribute, and it made a "whole" capable of achieving the prize! Green Gables will remain a community green space amidst the bustling commercial growth happening in the area."

             Green Gables is still in need of volunteers to assist in running the tours and events. No one on the staff is paid; Green Gables is solely volunteer. According to Sue Fallon, the vice president of Green Gables,

"This past May (2020) Green Gables, with the generosity of the descendants of the Wells family, the local public, and some lovers of history and architecture enabled Green Gables to meet the match in funding for the ability to submit for a Special Category Grant with the Division of Historical Resources at the State of Florida.  

          The price of the home and property is $965,000. As a matching grant, we needed to raise $482,500 in donations, pledges, and a sizeable in-kind contribution from the family. We were able to meet that goal. We applied for the grant at the end of May 2020. The Division of Historical Resources has satisfactorily reviewed our grant application as an acquisition application.

Sept, 28, and Sept 29, our application will be reviewed and hopefully ranked high by the Florida Historical Commission made up of Florida professionals, knowledgeable in the area of historic buildings and preservation.

They not only must know about buildings and the history around them, but also archeology and underwater shipwreck sites, and parks. Most are architects or individuals knowledgeable in history and preservation.  

                 This Commission will determine where we rank or, if we rank, to be submitted in the Division of Historical Resources budget with the State of Florida for the 2021/2022 fiscal year. From October 2020 through June 2021, it will be considered by the State legislature and then finally by the Governor of Florida to be approved or not for funding in that year's budget.

If we are approved by the Commission and rank high at the end of September, we wait until June of 2021 to see if we are included in the budget year 2021/2022. If approved for funding, we will see grant funds from the State of Florida to purchase Green Gables after 7/1/2021.

                   Again, if fully approved by the Historical Commission, we will call for pledges that individuals have made to Green Gables to have the match reading to go for the acquisition of the Green Gables property with a real estate closing."  

Green Gables requires financial help, and you can donate money by visiting, or if you are in the Melbourne area, you can stop by. Mary Brotherton describes a great reason to fight for historical homes. 

                "After my grandfather died, my grandmother continued to live in that house until she moved in with my aunt, her oldest daughter. When she passed away a few years later, my aunt inherited the house. Her son inherited it when his mother passed away, and he neglected the property until the yard around that home where my siblings and I had so many beautiful memories were allowed to take over. Vagrants moved in at one point and nearly burned the house down. Even that didn't hurt as much as when I learned that the county had condemned the property and forced my cousin to raze it. 


         That little house in rural South Carolina wasn't as grand as Green Gables and might never have been noticed because of its location. I think that superb properties, like Green Gables, must be saved from developers and preserved for future generations for several reasons. I've visited historic homes where I had no sentimental connection, but as soon as the docents brought them to life with their stories, I found a link to the previous owners.

I feel it's important for generations to come to understand how their parents, grandparents, and even grandparents lived. We take for granted the modern conveniences we have and today's youth have little idea how to entertain themselves without electronics. I believe that by saving historical buildings and promoting their history, we might be able to teach our children how to appreciate the connections formed through a simpler time."  

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