After 25 years in law enforcement in Dade County, Yolanda Copeland retired and moved to Jacksonville in 2013. “I wanted to change careers and do something completely different. I have always been handy with tools and loved history. I remember building a playhouse when I was five. I’d put a structure together just leaning wood. I didn’t have a hammer and nails back then,” Copeland says.
She wanted to go into historic preservation with sustainability in mind. But she was a suburbanite. “I was born in the suburbs, so this thing about living in the urban core was completely foreign to me.” Copeland commuted to Jacksonville every Friday from South Florida in search of a historic home that would be the center of her next life chapter. “I talked to the folks here about being in an historic district and asked where the best places to look were. They said ‘Check San Marco, Riverside, Avondale, but whatever you do stay away from Springfield.’”
So, Copeland went to Springfield, parked her car and walked block-by-block. “I talked to people, and they were extremely friendly. I didn’t get the sense that the sky was falling as some people were telling me. That’s when I decided that Springfield was the neighborhood I was going to be in.” She found a 1922 Arts and Crafts bungalow, originally owned by a painter.
“A bungalow is usually a one-story or a one-and-a-half-story single structure with two bedrooms, possibly three. They are known for their built-ins, detail on the exterior of the house, gabled roofs, with overhanging eaves, rafter tails that are exposed and large front porches. They were designed for the working man. I was always attracted to the craftsman bungalows because of the artistry, the ornamental wood and tapered columns,” Copeland says.
The bungalow style originated in India, as a tropical house used as a place of respite for travelers. They were simple homes designed for coolness and livability. The British officers in India in the 19th century brought the architecture back to Europe where it became a popular design for summer homes. In the early 20th century, architects of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a movement most noted for art pottery and mission-style furniture, celebrated the bungalow as an artisan design, constructing them of local stone and wood. They quickly rose in popularity, and soon companies like Sears and Roebuck began selling plans and materials as kits for ready-cut homes across America.
Copeland stands at just 5 feet tall, and is fierce when it comes to her DIY drive. “When I tell people I’m restoring a house, I must emphasize that I’m doing 90 percent of the work. Because I am a woman, they automatically think that I’ve hired someone to do this or that.”
Some days the project seems daunting, but she has never been afraid of hard work. The learning experience has gifted her a sense of satisfaction that would have been lost if she hired someone to do the renovation for her. “I’m hard-headed. I wanted to do it. As a woman, men are very protective and want to help and think women know nothing about construction, so if I let a guy do it, I become an assistant on my own project. I had to take the lead on it. I know that as a woman this is a male dominated trade,” Copeland says. From laying pipe to leveling the yard with a Bobcat T450 skid steer vertical lift from Compact Power Equipment Rental, to laying tile and installing light fixtures, through perseverance and a little help from her family and friends, Copeland has developed a new skill set that will serve her the rest of her life. “I learned that I want people to know, especially women, that we can do this. This has been a humbling experience, and it makes me smile to say to myself, wow, I’m doing this, I’m doing it primarily by myself, and I feel accomplished. I can hang some drywall.”
“It’s something that I knew that was in me as a child. I’ve made the dream come to life. Although I’m not done,” Copeland says.
When she finishes, she is going to celebrate with the community that has supported her through the project. “I’m going to have a party. Springfield is a neighborhood that’s healthy, and fulfilling. Springfield is uptown!”
To see Yolanda Copeland’s bungalow restoration in process, follow “Yollie’s Historic Craftsman Bungalow Life” on Facebook, and to learn more about Copeland’s Uptown Lifestyle Concierge and Excursions, visit explorejaxcore.com
Photography by Bruce Lipsky
Videography by Grace Ricker