Historical preservation grant will help restore the 130-year-old Williams House

(July 22, 2020) – The Florida Division of Historical Resources has awarded USF’s St. Petersburg campus a grant towards the preservation of the John C. Williams House, a historic building nestled behind oak trees on University Way. The state has awarded $17,837, which USF is matching in cash, employee time and grant administration for a total of $35,674 towards the creation of a historic preservation master plan.

”We are thrilled to receive the Small Matching Grant from the Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources,” said Susan Toler, St. Petersburg campus associate dean of USF’s College of Arts and Sciences. “This funding will enable us to create a master plan to preserve an iconic piece of St. Petersburg’s architectural history. We anticipate this is the first step towards a full restoration and preservation of the property.”

Preservation master plans help identify the objectives and priorities for restoring historic structures. These plans are critical to the long-term preservation planning, providing roadmaps that guide the actions taken by planners and architects.

Built in 1891 by General John C. Williams, one of the co-founders of St. Petersburg, the Williams House was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It has been a landmark on the USF St. Petersburg campus since 1997, when it was moved to 511 2nd Street South. Over the years, the building has provided atmospheric event space and offices for departments such as History and Philosophy. The courtyard between the Williams House and C. Perry Snell House, another historic landmark on campus, has even played stage for the St. Petersburg Shakespeare Festival.

williams and snell house

The Williams and Snell Houses are histroic landmarks on USF’s St. Petersburg campus. Credit: Cliff McBride/staff

“These two houses are integral to the history of St. Pete,” said Paul Palmer, principal at Renker Eich Parks Architects, who has worked on past restoration of the buildings and helped with the recent grant proposal. “The 1891 Williams House is a Victorian-era home built in the Queen Anne style. It’s one of the earliest frame buildings built in the city. The 1904 Snell House is a rare example of Dutch Colonial Revival architecture with Queen Anne influences. They make a good pair and they’re both good examples of early St. Petersburg architecture.”

Committed to the upkeep and preservation of St. Petersburg’s history, faculty and staff on USF’s St. Petersburg campus last year sought grant funding to help maintain the Williams House for future generations by creating a master plan that will identify its most pressing needs. Developing the master plans will entail meeting with stakeholders, assessing the physical condition of the building and identifying mitigation strategies for reducing its risk to natural disasters, such as hurricanes and flooding.

“USF St. Petersburg has done a great job as stewards of these homes,” said Palmer. “The steps the University has taken to secure a grant to do a master plan is a true commitment to keep the houses maintained and in use for the long term.”