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  1. Opinion

Joe Henderson: Julia Moseley, Brandon's premier preservationist, turns 100

Friends and well-wishers gathered on March 21 for Julia Moseley’s 100th birthday at her home, which was built by her grandparents in 1886. The home has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. [JOE HENDERSON | Special to the Times]
Friends and well-wishers gathered on March 21 for Julia Moseley’s 100th birthday at her home, which was built by her grandparents in 1886. The home has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. [JOE HENDERSON | Special to the Times]
Published Mar. 27, 2019

Julia Moseley was in Brandon long before strip malls lined State Road 60. She was there nearly eight decades before the mall, the choking traffic congestion and the planned communities.

When she was growing up, Brandon only had about 100 residents at first. The Brandon Grade School, known now as McLane Middle School, was founded in 1919, the year Julia was born.

Some things don't change, though.

The house she lived in then is the same house she lives in now. It is called "The Nest" and was built in 1886. It sits just a few yards off SR 60, down a dirt-covered path, a time machine to a period most of us have only seen in pictures.

It will stay that way, too.

The "No Trespassing" sign is always out for developers who see this historic home and the surrounding 14.15 acres of land as just more greenery to be bulldozed. Julia can't be bought, and has made certain the Moseley Homestead, as it is known, will never be sold. It will remain as a last vestige to a time that otherwise would be lost forever.

As friends and well-wishers gathered on March 21 for Julia's 100th birthday, they celebrated her strength of will and selflessness.

There were plaques and salutations from the Hillsborough County Commission. Melissa Haskins, Brandon's honorary mayor, declared it "Julia Moseley Day" and noted that she is "the personification of a protector of Florida's history."

Julia has rejected offers that could have put as much as $10 million in her bank account. The way Julia figures it though, she has something more valuable than money, something precious and irreplaceable.

The home has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Julia celebrated her big day with a breakfast of pancakes, slathered in syrup and real butter. Visitors wandered inside the house and marveled at the original wall covering of palmetto fiber on painted burlap.

Julia taught hundreds of students to play the piano back in the day. Those pianos remain in the living room, and if you closed eyes you could almost hear a selection from Brahms. Julia loves the classics.

She was a relentless activist, too.

I moved to Brandon about 31 years ago, and on one of the first trips to my new home, I marveled at a stretch of huge canopy oaks that draped over Lakewood Drive. They were beautiful.

They still are, by the way. We have Julia to thank for that.

They were destined to be chopped down and destroyed so Lakewood could be widened to handle more cars. Julia said no, and she meant it.

She approached anyone who would listen. Mark Proctor, who then was a volunteer at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce and now also is a member of the Timberly Trust board that helps maintain Julia's home.

"She asked, 'Can you help?'" he said. "Absolutely."

Julia led a charge to tie yellow ribbons around the doomed oaks. She helped organize political muscle.

The trees were saved, and not just temporarily.

"The widening project was permanently removed, thanks to Julia," Proctor said. "There might be a little longer wait in traffic going through there, but they have those century-old oaks."

Hospice has been summoned three times when her caregiver thought Julia's health was deteriorating. Each time representatives checked her out and said she didn't need their services just yet.

"She might outlive us all," Proctor said.

She just might.

Maybe.

Brandon may now be a commuter's nightmare, amid the big-box stores and all the other trappings of suburbia. But there is a spot in the middle of it all that reminds us that it wasn't always like this.

Those 14.25 acres from the past and the home that stands there is the testament to a woman who saw value in something more than money. Julia Moseley made a difference.