Brian’s mother was head of archives at the Washington University library in St. Louis. Brian spent many childhood hours there perusing historic documents. He was most inspired by the drawings of James E. Eads, designer and builder whose family had donated all his papers to the library.
In 1874, Eads completed Eads Bridge, at that time, the longest arch bridge in the world. It was the first use of steel in a major bridge project and is still being traveled today. Brian was in awe of detail of the drawings and photos which clearly depicted the finest use of the building technology of that era.
The photo is The Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River under construction in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1874 or earlier.
On this charming relic of Tampa’s past, carpenter Brian replaced siding and repaired the exterior trim as well as refurbishing the entry door and sidelite.
Two grandchildren now reside in the bungalow and work the farm, cultivating heritage produce from the seeds of plants brought from Sicily almost 100 years ago which they sell to Ybor restaurants.
Today, just blocks away from bustling Interstate 4, near the center of Tampa in Ybor City, the Giunta Family Homestead and Farm, first planted in 1922, continues to flourish, not as an adaptive-reuse project or a farm museum but as a working small family farm. Its original Craftsman-style bungalow home custom designed and built by a local Italian-immigrant contractor is still intact.
Brian has dedicated his life to the preservation of history, saving structures that were built at a time when there was an abundance of skilled artisans. These skills are disappearing, save for a handful of knowledgeable craftsmen, such as Brian.
Arriving from the Midwest over three decades ago, Brian began contributing to the revitalization of Old Tampa. Already skilled in the field of historic carpentry, metal work and ornamental plaster, he restored old homes in Palma Ceia and Hyde Park during the beginning of the resurgence of these beautiful neighborhoods.
Throughout the following decades, Brian has become familiar with the local building requirements for each neighborhood, working in cooperation with the City of Tampa’s Historic Preservation Department. His knowledge of local historic architecture has expanded, providing him with a full understanding of the different features of all types of architecture prevalent in each historic area of Tampa, decade by decade. He is adept at designing, choosing materials and performing work that will comply with the local preservation codes for each neighborhood.
Brian attended St. Genevieve School of Fine Arts, a school of St. Louis University where he worked as a book binder preserving rare books. During this time he worked at Smith Hardware in St. Louis, repairing all the broken windows in the shop. Here he learned the basics of carpentry and glazing, mending and creating window frames and installing new glass panes. He graduated to traveling to people’s homes where he installed the windows that he had so meticulously restored.
In the 1960’s, louvered windows with exhaust fans were installed at Centro Asturiano to remove the clouds of cigar smoke that filled the building during events. The fan on bottom floor was rigged to blow out smoke from downstairs and to draw fresh air in from the upper ballroom floor.
The fans were reversed to ventilate the air in ballroom when the club was hosting dances. Brian removed all the unsightly louvers and fans to uncover the stunning, original arched openings.
In Chicago, Brian worked at Decorator Supply, Classic Architectural Detailing Founded in 1883, to manufacture "artistic decorative accessories", it blossomed into a manufacturer of cast ornamental plaster. Their early catalogue shows the gargoyles and statuary and other decorative items that they supplied for our own Tampa Theatre.
Tampa is indeed fortunate to be the home of such a dedicated and skilled craftsman.
Contact Brian for a consultation on your historic home.
As a final touch, Brian added made new wood screens and installed them on the windows. With a fresh coat of paint in the complimentary trim color, they add curb appeal to the home.
On a practical note, they make it possible for the family to open the windows to enjoy the weather during Tampa’s cooler months.
At the same home, he replaced damaged wood siding, using boards that were milled to match the existing boards and meticulously lacing in the patched section so that it would look as though it had always been there.
He worked carefully around the foundation plantings, preserving the shrubbery surrounding the house.
The second floor had offices for officers of the society, a library and reading rooms, educational rooms, smoking rooms, ladies’ parlor and dressing room, auditorium and stage. The third floor has a Grand Ballroom and the balcony of the theatre. Brian performed delicate plaster repairs in the theater.
Throughout the building he restored the double hung wood windows, replacing damaged frame segments, inserting new glass and installing new chains. With failing hardware, the lower entrance doors were completely worn from decades of use, so Brian replaced them to allow entry to this much loved Tampa icon.
Brian grew up St. Louis, a beautiful, historic city, founded in 1764. St. Louis hosted the 1904 World’s Fair and many of the buildings were still standing half a century later. Brian was fascinated by these structures.
He often gazed up at the Gothic towers of Brookings Hall at Washington University which had served as the administrative building for the fair.
Collegiate Gothic in style, it was inspired by university buildings in England. Appropriate to Brian’s later work, the building is inscribed with the words, Cedunt Horae, Opera Manent (The hours go by, the works remain.)
Brian has been a featured demonstrator at Tampa Preservation Inc.’s Historic Homes Workshops. Tampa Preservation, Inc., a private, non-profit organization, established in 1973, is dedicated to the preservation of the historic structures and neighborhoods of the Tampa Bay area and Hillsborough County, and to the education of the area’s school children and residents about their unique heritage.
TPI’s popular Historic Home Workshops provide tips from over a dozen experts on how to save these valuable historic materials. Brian educated the audience on the interior features typical of historic homes. Other topics covered were researching your home’s history and refinishing wood floors.
The resulting buildings were typically two-story brick structures built at the street, on narrow lots. Built from the mid- to late-19th Century, the area contained a variety of architectural styles. Soulard received its local historic district designation in 1972. Brian was a major contributor to this revitalization, respected in the neighborhood as a carpenter and mason.
Built in 1891 by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant, this history museum was originally the Tampa Bay Hotel, an extravagant resort that drew such guests as Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. Now exquisitely restored, the hotel's striking Moorish architecture, lavish furnishings and vibrant gardens provide an awe-inspiring glimpse into the early years of Florida tourism.
In the 1987 major restoration of the Plant Hotel at the University of Tampa, Brian refitted the doors and transoms to their original openings after they were refurbished.
He repaired and replaced interior molding work. Outside, he performed porch repairs so that today, you can sit outside the hotel and feel the like one of the privileged guests who relaxed there in the warm Florida sun over 100 years ago.
Over the decades, in addition to his residential work, Brian has restored many iconic buildings to their original glory. The Centre for Women was built in 1885 by T.C. Taliaferro, a prominent member of the Tampa banking community. Several historic preservation grants were given to restore the exterior of the building, which has been described as one of the “best examples of neo-classical architecture in Tampa.” Due to his extensive knowledge and skill, Brian was called upon to perform the work. Inside, he rebuilt stair treads and newels as well as installed door hardware. On the exterior, he repaired decades of damage to the building’s massive columns. He also installed custom architectural millwork and replaced lap siding.
The next decade, Brian had the opportunity to work at the Italian Club performing window restoration and glazing.
The Seminole Heights United Methodist Church, was built in 1927 of yellow brick. In 2004, it was restored in honor of their 75th anniversary. The chapel was designed by one of the highly regarded architects of Tampa, Frank A. Winn, Jr., responsible for several prominent area structures, some of which have been recognized individually by the National Register of Historic Places.
The church’s Gothic Revival style is one of the architectural types for which Seminole Heights Residential District is recognized. The elevated main floor allows for a lookout-style basement ("Allen Hall") below, a rare feature for local architecture. In Allen Hall, the church’s event room, he performed column restoration and installed chair railing. Brian built new classrooms downstairs. On the exterior of this massive structure, he replaced over 80 pieces of glass.
The club, founded in 1902, catered to Latin males, most of whom were workers in Ybor City’s cigar factories. Members paid a monthly fee for health insurance, use of club facilities, and guaranteed burial in the club cemetery.
Originally the first floor, which can be considered a basement since it sits three feet below ground level, was largely the recreation floor. It boasted a gymnasium, a Cantina for cards, chess, and dominoes, a billiard room with five billiard tables, and a three lane bowling alley. A marble onyx bar in the Cantina is reportedly the world’s longest.
Carpenter Brian is highly in demand in his own neighborhood of Seminole Heights. Recently, a neighbor’s chimney fell over onto the roof of the house.
Its original construction was incorrect, rendering it unstable. Brian removed the old chimney, rebuilt it, and secured it with metal flashing to make sure that the family in the house underneath would be safe.
At this Palma Ceia bungalow, Brian performed a complete restoration on a porch which had been screened in for sleeping. A main supporting beam across the front of the porch had completely rotted, so the whole porch, columns and roof had sunk alarmingly. The floor had severe water damage so there were places where one could fall through.
On this house, the actual columns were structural and supported the roof, so Carpenter Brian employed hydraulic jacks to hold the weight of the roof, then he removed all 4 columns and made temporary posts. He rebuilt all the columns and pilasters (half columns) to mimic the original ones. He installed heart pine floors cut from salvaged river logs from South Georgia so that the floor would be safe to walk on. The original railing was completely missing. Brian researched the design that was typical for the era and neighborhood and designed a new one. His last step was to mill the many individual parts and then assemble them to make this beautiful and functional porch rail.
When Brian was a youth of 19, he restored his first historic home. Working on job with other tradesmen, he carefully observed and absorbed their knowledge of carpentry and masonry. He studied the materials and methods of construction of the various eras. He researched the history, culture and lifestyles of these times, noting their contributions to changing styles in architecture.
During the 1970’s, spurred by a gas shortage, people flocked back to city. Old neighborhoods began to be resurrected. Areas such as the Soulard District were brought back to life. Named for Antoine Soulard, a Frenchman who surveyed the area, the neighborhood was a mix of common fields and French farms until the 1840's. The expanding city and the influx of German and Bohemian immigrants led to the platting of streets and lots in the area, following the typical urban grid.
On the porch, Brian replaced a dangerously deteriorated column. Down the center of column was a 4” post for strength. After removing this crucial support, he employed hydraulic jacks to hold the weight of the roof.
To replicate the original column, he custom milled the wood to the original measurements of the decorative cladding.
On Delaware, in Hyde Park, sits a large, 3 story red brick house that has a ballroom on the third floor. Brian delicately repaired and replaced the ornate wood molding in the ballroom, matching the existing features with custom milled pieces. On the 3 story winding wooden staircase, he replaced spindles and repaired damaged areas.
On the exterior of this impressive home, he repaired the brick work and limestone ornamentation on front porch and repaired over 30 double hung windows. The most challenging task was the straightening of the columns which were leaning from porch roof leaks. He first took the weight off the columns by using hydraulic jacks. To ensure that the columns were perfectly straight and level, he employed a method devised by the ancient Greeks and Romans in which he suspended a lead weight (or plumb bob) from a string on a tripod. At this point, he secured and stabilized each column.
Erected in 1927, The Masonic Temple No. 25, also known as Hillsborough Masonic Lodge Number 25 was designed by Leo Elliott, inspired by three medieval Italian cathedrals. It is the largest and most ornate Masonic edifice in Florida.
Elliot is widely regarded as one of the finest architects the Tampa area has yet produced, with several properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cornerstone of the building was laid on June 18, 1928 on the corner of East Kennedy Boulevard and Morgan Street. The first Masonic Lodge meeting in the new Temple was called on February 19, 1929. On September 11, 1986, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
The building includes a large dining room, kitchen, officer offices, library, conference room, lounge area, and lodge room. The Lodge room is adorned with a 35 foot high, hand painted ceiling, and accommodates up to 450 Brothers and visitors.
The Centro Asturiano de Tampa (Centro) is a social club for people and their descendants from Asturias, Spain. The building originally cost $110,000.00 and its furnishings $30,000.00 in 1914.
In 1974 the building was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated heritage structure in the Ybor City Historic District.