BRANDON, Fla. — You may have driven past an old homestead a hundred, maybe even a thousand times in Brandon and never even knew it was there.
It's not what you'd expect. An old dirt road. An old house. It fit in the late 1800s but the modernization and expansion of the area didn't bother it.
"The feeling never goes away when I turn down the little lane off of Highway 60 and feel like you're going back in time. And it's a magical feeling," explained John Dingfelder, a board member of the Timberley Trust.
The Moseley Homestead is made up of 15 acres, right in the heart of Limona. It truly is like going back in time.
Dr. Lori Collins, Co-Director of the Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections at USF said, "So, when we have this kind of development happening, these kind of places really matter."
The Moseley Homestead was built in the late 1800s by Julia Daniels and Charles Moseley.
"Back in the 1880s, the Mosley family came down here from Illinois. Mr. Mosley was a very very smart man and pretty successful man but he had some health issues. So like most people, you know, he came to Florida. It's interesting to me that he decided not to settle in Tampa, but he came out here to an area called Limona, this is the Limona area of Brandon and settled out here with some of the other people that he knew from Illinois," explained Dingfelder.
Up until recently, the property was loved and cared for by their granddaughter, Julia Winifred Moseley. She passed a few years ago.
But not without some forward thinking to creating the Timberley Trust.
"So interestingly, Julia Winifred actually had her own sort of preservation plan. She wrote it all out what she kind of wanted, and the Trust was very aware of her wishes and things as well. But we actually worked while she was still alive up until just recently, she lived to be 100. She had that foresight, and we were actually able to develop a preservation plan," explained Dr. Collins. "That was sort of our first step was let's have a written kind of guidance document. And we were able to kind of inventory and do an asset understanding of what was here and you know, how we might move forward with it a preservation plan that extended all the way to like the papers and the things that are here."
"And then sort of the next step is using that as our guide and starting to do those preservation elements. So things like, you know, taking care of the book collection, taking care of the digitization of all the artwork that USF libraries has now been preserving, making available to the public."
The Timberley Trust and the University of South Florida are working to make sure this historic property stays the way it was intended.
"This particular site is fragile, not only because of its architectural, construction and structures but also because of its place where it's located. You know, Brandon has significantly changed through time and continues to change, as all places do. But it certainly lost that sort of character that was present when this home began, of, you know, these rural homesteads, where people were sort of making a living off of the land," explained Dr. Collins.
"Before that even, this is really the road to Fort Brooke, you know, so we have the very beginnings of Tampa that came through the front door of this, this particular property. And then before that, if you look back at history, this is on a Native American trail. So we had, you know, people all through time prehistory and history that this place was very important to. So preserving that sort of memory of this place, and also preserving the history of this place, which is so fragile and imperiled is really important," Dr. Collins said.
Julia kept family letters, books, pictures, you name it. These pieces of history are captivated and held right here.
"That written history and she has incredible, you know, photos of early Florida and the surroundings. That all becomes part of this incredible record that needs to be preserved," Dr. Collins said.
"Julia Winifred Mosley was really like a caretaker to all of that and and other people in her family had helped to kind of caretake all of these documents and the place itself through time, and the foresight that she had for protection and setting up a trust and setting up sort of mechanisms. To make sure that this is preserved into the future, and also kind of gathering voices as part of that Trust, her Trust is actually integral and kind of bringing together people that care," explained Dr. Collins.
This was Julia's mission, albeit a successful one, to keep her family's slice of Old Brandon the way it was intended. The mission always stayed the same, even as the area outside of this homestead modernized and expanded.
"The property is amazing. But Julia Moseley was amazing. She lived to 100 years old, and she spent her whole life just preserving and protecting this property. She was a dear friend, and, and she asked me to continue on and be involved as long as I could," said Dingfelder, who's just as passionate about the property.
ABC Action News got a tour of the property from the inside to the lakefront.
The architecture of the buildings is just as unique. The main living area, "The Nest," is full of intricate, handmade wallpaper, old books, knick-knacks and pictures.
"Using the documents that are part of this homestead are just gonna find new discoveries relating to Florida history. It's kind of like an onion. And we're just, we're just starting to peel it," said Dr. Collins.
"So really exciting to be in at the sort of ground floor where we're planning all of this your own backyard. Yeah, this is wonderful for the partnership with USF, our program, to be able to bring students out here to be able to incorporate this into digital learning and classroom environments. We can use this for teaching about technology, you know, with the different types of strategies that we've created out here with 3D, we can use it for teaching about history, we can use it for teaching about architecture, there's just the list is pretty infinite," explained Dr. Collins.
The kitchen, separate from the living area, was believed to be upgraded sometime around 1940.
The patio and open-air hallway is something you can just imagine was a popular gathering spot for families and friends in the 1800s.
Dingfelder explained, "You know, there's a lot of historic properties around Hillsborough County, and that's wonderful. But typically they feel kind of empty, they don't feel lived in. This house is lived in. And there's artifacts here that her great-grandmother left behind in the late 1800s. It's just mind-boggling. We open up boxes and drawers and stuff when we find something new every day."
Each building is named appropriately, too. From The Whilst, Deluge, and Lazaretto, you get a sense of how proud this family was to call this property home.
Today, USF and the Trust are working to bring college students here to study the property and land.
"I think that Julia Mosley, the one I knew that, this, this was just her mission in life. You know, some people will get married and have children and this and that. This was her baby. This was her family right here. And even though eventually she was alone in this house, it didn't matter to her. Because this was her goal in life, was to preserve not only the house, but to preserve her grandmother's memories and everything that went with it," said Dingfelder.
Today, you can tour the house and the property thanks to Dr. Collins and her team. The virtual tour will give you a look into what it's like here for yourself. You can also read about the Timberley Trust and their efforts to preserve the Homestead.