Early years at the Gustav Muller house

The Muller house today.

The yellow house at the corner of 1st Street and 3rd Avenue South in Jacksonville Beach may look small and out of place among the modern condominiums nearby, but it has managed to survive over 130 years of history in the oceanfront town. Built in the Frame Vernacular style with distinctive “fish scale” shingles, it was completed around 1886 by German immigrant Gustav Muller. One unique feature is its high first floor, which sits over a garage space once used as a horse stable and ice storage.

The Gustav Muller house is the oldest residence in Jacksonville Beach still in its original location. Only the Oesterreicher-McCormick cabin, built in Palm Valley around 1873 and moved to the Beaches Museum in 2015, is older. The Muller house has been in the same family since its construction, passing from one generation to the next.

The Declaration of Intention to Citizenship for Gustav Muller in 1872. In the document Gustav renounced his allegiance to Emperor William I and Germany. Janey Muller, the wife of Gustav Muller, in the 1890s. Gustav Muller’s death in 1897, Janey owned the house until her death in 1928.

Gustav Muller immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1872. He settled in Jacksonville where he eventually became a successful grocer and businessman. He married Saint Augustine local Janey Barbara Syple, and they had three children: Gustav Jr., Minnie, and Ethel. Gustav “Gus” Muller Jr. became a well-known Jacksonville businessman who founded the bottling company G. Muller & Company, whose building is now home to Engine 15 Brewing. He also served as manager of Jacksonville’s Hotel Burbridge and Miami’s Hotel McAlister.

Unfortunately, Gustav Muller Sr. was unable to enjoy his beach house for long. He died on September 17, 1897 at 48, leaving the house to his wife Janey.

The Muller house in a new century

Ethel Muller posing in front of the Gustav Muller House in the 1900s. After the death of her mother Janey in 1928, the Gustav Muller House passed down to Ethel. Gustav “Gus” Muller Jr., owner of the G. Muller & Company bottling plant and Hotel Burbridge.

The house continued to serve as a vacation home for the extended Muller family. In 1909, Gustav and Janey’s youngest daughter Ethel married Maxey Dell Moody, with whom she had four children: Dolores, Maxey Jr., Muller and Jean. In 1913, Max Moody Sr. founded the Jacksonville-based road construction company M.D. Moody, later M.D. Moody and Sons Inc., which became one of the largest family owned construction equipment companies in the southeastern United States. Max Moody Jr. later headed the company and became a prolific photographer. The Moody family regularly visited the family home.

Janey Muller died on January 27, 1928, leaving the Gustav Muller house to Ethel Muller Moody. Ethel’s brother Gus Muller Jr. wasn’t interested in the house as he had his business career in Jacksonville and Miami. He died a few years later in 1934.

Ethel Moody, center in the yellow dress, with her husband Maxey Moody and three of their children at the Gustav Muller house in the early 1930s. From left to right are Maxey Moody Jr., Ethel, Maxey Moody Sr., Jean, and Dolores.

Ethel and her family lived in downtown Jacksonville but continued to use the Gustav Muller House for 48 years after her mother’s death. Her family spent many summers at the house and beach, continuing with their grandchildren in the 1940s. Maxey Moody Sr. died on July 27, 1949 at 65, and Ethel’s sister Minnie passed away two months later on September 30. Ethel was devastated by the loss of her husband and sister, but continued to push forward for her growing family, who continued to visit her father’s house. On March 10, 1976 Ethel Muller Moody, at this time a great grandmother, died at 85 years old.

A new generation takes over

Ethel Jeannine “Jean” Moody Butler inherited the house in 1976. The Gustav Muller house shortly after extensive renovations by Barbara Buck, the great granddaughter of Gustav Muller, and her father Walter Butler Sr. in 2008.

After the death of Ethel Muller Moody, the Gustav Muller house passed to her youngest daughter Ethel Jeannine “Jean” Moody Butler. Jean and her husband Walter Butler had four children: Walter Butler Jr., Beverly Piccione, Barbara Buck and Blair May. The Butlers and Moodys continued to use the house, still intact at 90 years old.

Jean Butler died on July 28, 2001, leaving the house to her children. In 2002-2003 the family requested a survey for the Florida Master Site File, which identified the house’s historic character. In 2008, Barbara Buck, Jean Butler’s daughter, and Jean’s husband Walter Butler Sr. renovated the Muller house, bringing it back to its former glory after more than 120 years.

Today the house still stands, refusing to go anywhere. It has survived every hurricane and tropical storm that has come through Jacksonville Beach for over 130 years, as well as the wave of demolitions bringing down historic buildings across the Beaches. Standing amid new construction all around it, the Muller house remains as a reminder of another era of Jacksonville Beach history.

Next page: More photos of the Gustav Muller house through the years