Completed circa 1840 by Territorial Governor Richard Keith Call, the Call/Collins House at The Grove is a well preserved example of Greek Revival architecture. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The historical significance of The Grove property lies not only in the age and exceptional integrity of the home and grounds, but also in how its history speaks to critical moments and major currents that define the American experience.
Completed under the stewardship of the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historic Resources, Call/Collins House rehabilitation provides a model for future historic preservation projects across the country. The goal was to ensure that the site will enrich the lives of visitors for generations to come and serve as a fitting tribute to the legacy of Call and Collins families.
Built during a period when sensitivity to the environment was a necessity, the Call/Collins House at The Grove exhibits many techniques still used today for sustainable design. The project is one of a small number of historic house museums in the nation to attain LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Credits earned towards LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification include the re-use or re-purposing of existing buildings and materials already on-site; installing high-efficiency, state-of-the-art heating, cooling, and mechanical systems to replace antiquated and inefficient equipment; recycling as much construction waste as possible; prioritizing the use of local materials in any new construction; removing hazardous materials such as lead paint and asbestos; and using low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) products whenever possible throughout the rehabilitation project. The benefits accrued from pursuing LEED certification include reduced energy consumption, resulting in lower energy bills; reduced water use both indoors and outdoors, resulting in lower utility bills; reduced construction and demolition debris, resulting in less waste in Florida landfills; and improved indoor air quality, including proper ventilation and mold/mildew reduction.
As the home was taken apart and reassembled over an extensive five-year, three-phase project, surprises emerged from underneath the original wood and layers of paint and plaster.
In 1985, Mary Call Darby Collins and her husband, Florida’s 33rd Governor LeRoy Collins, sold The Grove to the state of Florida. Governor and Mrs. Collins received a life-lease on the property and lived in the home until their deaths in 1991 and 2009, respectively.
Beginning in 2010, the Department of State initiated the first of three construction phases at The Grove. Working with MLD Architects, Inc. and Allstate Construction, Inc., the first phase involved protecting the home from severe weather by installing new storm shutters to replace unsalvageable historic shutters laden with lead-based paints. Equipped with impact-resistant fiberglass panels, the new shutters were built to match the historic shutters, but updated with new materials to provide enhanced and lasting protection for the original windows. As the first construction phase began, professional appraisers evaluated the home and its historic collections. The assessment of the home’s value and the appraisal of historic collections to be acquired from the Collins family were critical steps in planning the museum and prepared the building for the substantial rehabilitation project ahead.
Left: Architects, contractors, and engineers collaborate. Middle: Scaffolding is built around the house. Right: new reproduction shutters with fiberglass panels installed.
The second construction phase began in 2011 and involved a comprehensive structural assessment of the Call/Collins House. The assessment revealed extensive cracking caused by nearly two centuries of settling by the masonry building, which is supported by a stepped brick foundation sitting directly atop tightly packed clay soil. These findings initiated the two-pronged approach of stabilizing the building and making substantial modifications to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In order to stabilize the building and prepare for the addition of an elevator, new concrete footings were poured to underpin the foundation. Excavation to the base of the foundation walls allowed for the application of a waterproofing membrane below grade and the installation of French drains. The elevator utilizes existing openings on all landings in order to minimize its impact on the historic building. Excavation for the elevator pit revealed brick-lined trenches leading to an original cistern. The discovery of the cistern proved to be one of the most exciting of the project. Downspouts from gutters on the north elevation were connected to the cistern. Rainwater collected in the cistern is pumped into the irrigation system and provides water for planting beds adjacent to the house, lessening the site’s dependence on external water sources.
Top Left: view of excavated basement and foundation underpinning components. Top Right: Detail of original corbelled brick foundation. Bottom Left: View of partial demolition of 1950s era bathrooms to make way for elevator shaft. Bottom Right: historic diagram of a cistern alongside the excavated 19th century cistern at The Grove, notice the domed brick-work and charcoal box for filtering water.
With measures in place to stabilize the building, exterior restoration began on the original masonry walls, wood windows and doors, chimneys, and the roof. Masonry restoration specialists removed damaged brick and mortar. They re-faced brick and re-pointed grout lines using a clay and mortar similar to the mixtures used in the original construction. Stainless steel helical wall ties were installed at weakened points to provide additional support which, in effect, helped to stitch the building back together and mitigate nearly two centuries of settling. Restoration experts removed all of the historic window sashes and doors from the house, retaining nearly all of the historic hand-blown glass panes in the process. Conservators also restored original sidelights and fanlights that surround the front entrance. Sidelight and fanlight restoration required the removal of hundreds of delicate cast-lead ornaments attached to wood tracery fitted over rectangular glass panes. More than 100 individual ornaments were restored or re-cast.
Top left: manufacturer diagram of helical wall tie installation. Top Right: worker removes grout to re-point and stabilize the brick. Bottom Left: lead ornaments with rubber molds. Bottom Right: ornaments installed and re-painted on the entry door sidelights.
Once the exterior was complete, the rehabilitation of the interior began including work on the masonry and plaster walls, wood trim, and the original floors. The plaster and lathe ceiling on the first floor was removed to facilitate the installation of HVAC, dry-pipe sprinklers, and a security system. Repairs to historic plaster followed the removal of lead-based paints from interior masonry walls. The application of lead-based paints in the 20th century had unintended consequences for interior trim and the masonry building in general. These paints had effectively prevented the natural passage of moisture through the thick masonry walls. As a result, moisture concentrated in the brick, lime mortar, and in wood trim, particularly window casings and lintels installed above exterior openings to provide support for the structure above. The removal of casework around the windows on exterior walls revealed severely deteriorated original, heart-pine lintels, which were replaced with stainless steel beams to span the openings. All casework was rebuilt to match the styles used in the original construction.
View from parlor to dining room with the pocket door casings removed.
The final step of phase two included the application of custom, proprietary paint finishes on all of the interior walls. A uniform skim coat was applied on top of the plaster, which was then painted with a special paint mixture formulated to allow moisture to flow into the house. The paint composition mimics the original type used on the walls and helps to mitigate moisture retention problems caused by the former application of lead-based paints. Once the paint dried, work turned towards restoring the original floors. Light sanding and staining on the heart-pine floorboards capped off the majority of work on the interior.
In addition to structural stabilization, and exterior and interior restoration, phase two also included comprehensive systems upgrades, which ultimately resulted in the modernization of all plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. The kitchen, part of a 1950s addition by the Collins family, gutted during elevator installation, was renovated with new appliances, cabinets, linoleum flooring, and paint. Extensive work was also done to the grounds including enclosing of the existing carport and conversion into a bathroom pavilion; running downspout leaders away from the house and to a new drainage swale; landscaping and irrigation; selective tree trimming, stabilization, and lightening protection; restoration of the historic cistern; and the construction of a pergola to conceal main electrical infrastructure.
With rehabilitation work on the Call/Collins House complete, the third phase now focuses on site enhancements. Work is underway to facilitate greater public access to the property and enhance the visitor’s experience of the grounds. Particular care and attention is devoted to elaborating upon the historic landscape plan developed by Mrs. Collins.
Left: View of west side of The Grove grounds. Right: Pathway between the main house and staff offices at the Burr Cottage.
The interpretive plan currently in development for The Grove includes educational content focused on the rehabilitation project. Particular emphasis will be placed on LEED certification, architectural history, the preservation of original building materials and methods, and the use of innovative approaches to historic preservation. By weaving the together preservation with historical interpretation, museum staff ensure that the efforts undertaken at The Grove will educate and enrich the lives of visitors for generations to come and that meaningful connections are made between the people, the place, and its broader relevancy to the history of Tallahassee, Florida, and the nation.
902 N. Monroe., Tallahassee, FL 32303
Wednesday: House tours on the hour, 1, 2 and 3 p.m.
Thursday: House tours on the hour, 1, 2 and 3 p.m.
Friday: House tours on the hour, 1, 2 and 3 p.m.
Saturday: House tours on the hour, 10, 11 a.m., Noon, 1, 2 and 3 p.m.
Group Tours: Tours for groups of ten (10) or more are available at $1.00 per guest. For group tours, please contact the museum in advance to make arrangements.
Grounds open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.