Preservation With a Passion
Jodi Rubin and her team at CCS Restoration work to restore historic homes and buildings throughout Florida.
Sanford’s PICO building, built in 1887, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Jodi Rubin began her love affair with all things historic as a child. She became a historic preservationist in 1984 and, in 2009, purchased CCS Restoration in historic downtown Sanford from company founders Chris and Leslie Stevens. Rubin, a former historic preservation officer for the City of Orlando, and her crew of woodworkers undertake projects from Key West to Pensacola and across Central Florida. CCS provides historically accurate wood windows, doors, siding and trim and is the only window builder in the state offering full-service restoration of deteriorated windows and doors throughout Florida. Rubin lives in the College Park home she has preserved.
How did you develop a passion for historic preservation? I grew up in northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C., and when I was in elementary school, my parents started collecting antiques. We would drive around Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania seeking out little antique shops in rural areas, and we’d go to auction houses, and my mother would always point things out and say, “Look at that great old building.” So, at a pretty early age, I was exposed to it.
What are some of the most compelling preservation projects you’ve worked on in Central Florida? There’s a great Richardsonian Romanesque building—a monumental building like the old Orange County Courthouse. It’s in Sanford, and it’s called the PICO building, which stands for the Plant Investment Company. Henry Plant (19th century founder of the Plant System of railroads and steamship lines) was the railroad magnate who brought his railroad and hotels to Florida. For little Sanford, he built a railroad station, and the PICO building was a hotel. A new owner came in and purchased it and had us do the restoration of the windows upstairs. What’s really cool about these windows is the sashes (the framed part of the window) are made like furniture. They’re absolutely stunning with horseshoe and keyhole arches. There’s nothing like it in Central Florida. We put in historic wavy glass where windows were broken, and it really changed the character.
What qualifies a home or building as historic, and how many historic districts are in Central Florida? There are different levels of historic. The federal government designates properties on the National Register of Historic Places, and most local governments use similar criteria. If it’s 50 years old and important for its architecture, history or the people associated with it, then it’s historic. The local designation is the one that has the teeth [for preservation]. Orlando has six historic districts, and there’s a handful [of buildings] in Winter Park, Winter Garden, Sanford and Longwood.
What are some of the most prevalent historic Central Florida styles of architecture? The most common styles around here are Mediterranean, Colonial Revival and the Craftsman style. Usually a bungalow would be considered the Craftsman style, and then going into the newer post-Depression-era properties from the 1930s and ’40s, there’s the Minimal Traditional (like those in Orlando’s Colonialtown and College Park). Ranch was king in the 1950s and came right after Minimal Traditional.
What are some of your greatest challenges as you work to preserve windows and doors? The greatest obstacle in the work we do is [misinformation]. People who have old windows, for instance, think they’re not energy efficient and maybe not safe, so they think they have to replace them. Actually, the wood in windows is a much better energy-saving factor than aluminum windows. Also, in our climate, having insulated glass isn’t as important. If you can control how much sun is hitting your windows by using awnings or landscaping, or by putting in solar shades or blinds, then you can keep your old windows, and we can weather-strip them to seal air gaps. Historic window parts were made to be repaired. If one piece of wood is rotten in an old window, you can partially disassemble it and put the window back together, and it’s as good as new. We also build and restore doors and build screen doors. Our custom doors and millwork are made of a variety of woods to meet the needs of the client.
Does restoration remain a static art, or do you find ways to improve your techniques over time? We are always working toward efficiency. Basically, we build and restore the way it’s been done for a couple of hundred years, but by using modern innovations with traditional materials, you can make the process go faster and bring your costs down.
Is Central Florida a progressive region when it comes to preserving historic buildings? In Central Florida, there’s not as widespread an appreciation of historic resources as there is in places like Key West and St. Augustine. Those places build their reputations on their historic buildings and heritage tourism. But as historic buildings get rarer and rarer, and people appreciate them, they get more valuable. Winter Garden is a good example. With the Main Street approach, where you celebrate your historic buildings, it’s a beautiful backdrop to the cultural, historical and family events they hold in their community. And it’s really kind of a cool thing.
CCS Restoration repaired and re-glazed the historic wavy glass in a Winter Park home featured in the May 2014 issue of This Old House magazine. That story and others are told at ccsrestoration.com. Other projects Rubin and her team have completed include a historic Florida A&M University dormitory and the Brokaw-McDougall House (shown) in Tallahassee. Current projects include the Cocoa Village Playhouse as well as many homeowner restorations.