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Brooksville business matches new outbuildings with historic structures

In the Historic Shed shop, Mark Schroeder, 55, a carpenter by trade, builds window frames for a historic home in St. Petersburg recently. Historic Shed makes outbuildings and replacement pieces for historic buildings.
Published Nov. 15, 2013

BROOKSVILLE — Many owners of historic homes are faced with a dilemma when they consider enhancing their property with storage sheds, garage space and other outbuildings. Options tend to be limited and often come down to choosing between a prefabricated structure with little or no aesthetic appeal or hiring a contractor to build one from scratch.

Jo-Anne Peck and her husband, Craig DeRoin, thought there should be a better alternative, one that would offer a handsome, affordable structure to better complement the existing edifice and that could be built to modern standards.

In 2008, the couple launched Historic Shed, a Brooksville business that designs and builds custom preconstructed sheds, garages, artist studios and even small cottages that can be transported to a designated site and set up in a couple of days. For about a third of the price of new construction, homeowners can choose a wood frame design to fit with their existing bungalow, foursquare, colonial or other hip-roofed home.

"To us, the most important factor is that what we build doesn't look out of place," Peck said. "And if you're in a historic district, there are often strict rules for any new outbuildings you add. And that's what we specialize in."

Inside the couple's shop on Ponce De Leon Boulevard, the air is filled with the heady, sweet aroma of fresh-sawn cypress, a rot-resistant wood that Peck and DeRoin favor for exterior siding and roofs.

On a recent morning, the couple's lone employee, Mark Schroeder, put the finishing touches on several wood-screen frames while Peck and DeRoin consulted on a two-car garage that is under construction.

"We're a small company, and we don't rush things around here," Peck said. "Not everyone can appreciate that until they see the quality of work that we do. In the end, they realize that what they're getting is going to be around for a very long time, longer than anything they could buy from Home Depot."

It's unlikely that any big-box store even carries the wood used in the structures that Peck and DeRoin build. All lumber is hand-selected for quality and is treated with a product called Bora-Care, which inhibits the infestation of termites and other wood-destroying insects. Hardware, nails and screws are top grade, as is the paint. Doing things that way, Peck says, ensures the structure will be around for as long as the original home.

A licensed contractor, Peck, 44, holds a bachelor's degree in building science and a master's in historic preservation. She has spent nearly 20 years as a historic preservation consultant in Florida, including the recent removal and renovation of dozens of historic homes in the Ybor City Historic District of Tampa that were in the path of an Interstate 4 widening project.

She and her husband are serving as consultants in the restoration of the historic Chinsegut Hill manor house north of Brooksville through another company they own called Preservation Resource Inc.

Peck said that she and her husband began to think about starting Historic Shed while they worked on the I-4 project 10 years ago. Knowing that historic homes are often built close together on small, tightly fitted lots, the couple designed and built a panelized prototype shed that could easily be disassembled and transported to its final destination.

"Older neighborhoods often have very limited space in which to work," said DeRoin, 53. "We've had to carry panels through some narrow gates and wedge them around trees just to get them in a back yard. Hoisting a fully built structure with a crane would have never worked in a lot of cases."

Assembly of the building usually takes only a day or two, depending on its size. And since each structure is custom-built, customers are able to choose from a variety of options and features, such as board and batten siding, French doors, tin roofs and preinstalled electrical wiring and plumbing. A basic 10- by 10-foot shed costs about $5,800, including delivery and setup.

Although Historic Shed was launched during the heart of the recession, Peck said that business has picked up considerably in the past year or so as more older homes have found buyers. Although they have sold and delivered products throughout Central Florida, the Tampa Bay area continues to be their largest market.

"People who really appreciate the beauty and character of their homes and the neighborhood they live in tend to want to do as much as they can to keep that intact," Peck said. "We enjoy being a part of that."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

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