Preservation Group Fights for Permission to Demo 180 Year Old House?

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, In The News, Old House History

February, and the first part of this month, was a busy time for groups working to save old houses, and also for a preservation group fighting for permission to demolish a 180 year old house. First the stories that make sense to me, then about the so called preservation group.

Fighting to Save an Old House

A local carpenter, Peter Bickford, in Hingham, MA, is bending over backwards to save an old house built in 1727. A local church is expanding, and the old house, which the church had purchased and was using for offices, was preventing the expansion. The space the house occupied was needed for parking and as a buffer between the town’s water supply and the church’s sewer. The church said they would be willing to sell the house, so that it could be moved, rather than demolish it. Mr Bickford has saved a number of old houses in the area, and he purchased it with the intent of removing the roof and moving the house. Unfortunately the house won’t fit between the mature trees which line the town’s streets, so Mr Bickford is going to completely dismantle the house so that it can be moved. He says in the article that he couldn’t stand for the beautiful old house to demolished.

We also have a university fighting to save an old house in High Point, NC. The old house was built in 1902 by a prominent local furniture maker, who was generous with the school. The old house is going to foreclosure, and may be demolished. Evidently a Burger King expressed interest in the parcel of land in the past. Now I like fast food as much as the next person, maybe more, but surely there is another spot that a Burger King could go. You can’t tell from the picture what the interior is like, but the exterior appears to be in decent shape. Students at High Point University are trying to raise funds to prevent the foreclosure.

We also have an 80 year old house in Inglewood, TN that may be demolished to build a bank. The local residents let a rezoning request go through the channels without realizing that the old house could be torn down. Now they are fighting to prevent the demolition, and they have a member of the town council fighting with them. Perhaps Inglewood is different that where I live. Whenever I drive through the local towns I see empty bank buildings everywhere. Between the mergers and buyouts of the last couple of decades, and the recent economy, there are empty banks everywhere. I think it will be awhile before any new bank buildings need to be built around here, but evidently not in Inglewood, TN.

Demolition Dilemma

And now the story that I thought at first might be an early April Fool’s joke, until I did some research and found out it’s not. Local residents are picketing in an area of Cincinnati over the possible demolition of the 180 year old Gamble House. The Gamble House was built by the son of one of the founders of Proctor and Gamble. The house had fallen into a state of disrepair, and the city issued a violation listing corrections which needed to be made. So far the story is similar to many others we have read, it’s much like the above three stories, but now it gets interesting. The article states that the old house is owned by a preservation group, and they have said that they don’t have the funds for the needed repairs. So, I think to myself that any decent preservation group will try to fight the demolition, and in the meantime try to raise funds for the repairs. Obviously I thought wrong.

I did a little further research, and the organization which owns the house is actually calling themselves a conservation group. The conservation group was founded by a husband and wife, the husband being related to the Gamble family. The husband passed away, and the wife recently donated 100 million dollars to the conservation group. Yes, you read correctly, 100 million dollars! This is the same group that can’t afford the repairs to save the 180 year old family home. When the city issues a violation of this sort, they take their time before ordering the home to be torn down, even if its not a 180 year old historic home. They need to do a study to see how a demolition would affect the surrounding property values, and make sure the home doesn’t contain asbestos, among other other things.

Not this time. The conservation group has taken the city to court to try to get them to speed up the demolition order. The group is afraid the picketing residents, who don’t want the old house torn down, will come up with a way to prevent it. Now whether it’s a preservation group or a conservation group, you would think they would want to save the old house that has historical significance to their family, at least I would think that. I intend to continue following this old house story, I’m curious as to how this is going to turn out.

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  1. 2 Responses  to “Preservation Group Fights for Permission to Demo 180 Year Old House?”

  2. Colin
    Aug 29, 2011
    That is too bad for the first house being demolished for a church to expand, of all things a Church. Much rather see an old house still standing rather than a Church expanding. A conservation group who is trying to destroy a 300+ year old house? I love hypocrites!
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    I just spent a part of this week dealing with a similar issue -- though mine was more in the nature of regulations making it ridiculously expensive for the property owner to do what he wanted to do. (See my blog post here: http://bit.ly/9yDLz8) In a vein similar to the Gamble House, in the area where I live we have an historic old inn (a national historic land mark, I think)that has needs several million dollars worth of renovations before it can be reopened. Though a historic building, it remains in private hands and nobody can figure out how to make money with the Inn even with it's historic value. So it sits empty, deteriorating before our eyes. It seems to me that the issue of old building is a growing one. Obviously, not all old buildings need to be saved (just how many Victorian era farm houses do we need, for instance?), but it's also true that not all buildings that should be saved are being saved, and the maze of conflicting regulations just makes matters worse. In this case, let's hope that, if the family trust can't recognize the historic value of the Gamble house, that the public will, and that they'll buy the family out and put the building in the public trust.