Preservation effort

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

I really dislike reading articles about old houses being lost in the name of progress. It could be due to the fact that I was involved in the demolition of two houses many years ago. I can still remember watching the bulldozers turn the homes into piles of rubble within a matter of minutes. The first was a 1950s era house that had the misfortune of being located on five acres of very pricey property in Great Falls, Va. The owner planned on building a three million dollar house on each of the five acres, but after the home went down the market plunged and the project was put on hold. That was 20 years ago and I assume there are now five families living where that one old house once stood and no one even remembers it was there.

Extra Effort Saved this Old Farmhouse--photo from jsonline.com

Extra Effort Saved this Old Farmhouse--photo from jsonline.com

The second stood adjacent to a real estate office that wanted to expand and I was unable to convince the owner of the business to incorporate the old house into the new plans or have someone move it. It seemed like such a waste to watch it come down. That’s one of the reasons I can really appreciate the extra effort some developers put into saving an old house and including it in the new plans. I’ve been involved in development and drawing up site plans and know it’s much easier to start with a clean slate than trying to match new with the old.

Old houses are worth the extra effort

A developer in Wisconsin volunteered to change his plans and put some effort into saving an 1864 farmhouse that could have easily been torn down. I can’t help but think the good will and publicity he created with his gesture will help his project. I recently read about two old houses in the mid-west that might be lost to progress and in both cases they are coming down so public parks can be built. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like an old house turned into some sort of local museum or art gallery would be great for a public park. I would think that with a little extra effort and some fund raising the local jurisdictions could make it happen.

$400,000 to Restore?--photo from stltoday.com

$400,000 to Restore?--photo from stltoday.com

The old house in Glen Carbon, Il. has received a temporary stay of execution while options are discussed, but the old house in a suburb of St Louis seems to be out of appeals. I realize you can’t tell much from an exterior picture, but the estimate of $400,000 to restore the home seems a bit steep to me. I’m sure the residential construction industry in St Louis is in the same shape as the rest of the country and with a few competitive bids from local contractors, the home could be restored for much less if someone made the extra effort.


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  1. 3 Responses  to “Preservation effort”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    That's a very good point Frank and true in most cities that have grown from the small towns they were in the olden days. If the old house can't be included in the new project or moved to less valuable real estate, your solution is definitely worth considering in an effort to save part of the area's history.
  3. frank
    Aug 29, 2011
    I am all for restoring old houses, but the fact is that most old houses were built on choice pieces of real estate. Now that real estate is more valuable than the old house....another way to preserve old houses is to reuse their timbers and other unique features on new building projects.
  4. Dave Ray
    Aug 29, 2011
    The tear down I remember most was in Newburyport Mass. A very old, large Inn, 5 or 6 stories high with a still active basement pub was destroyed. Famous early American Patriots had staid there. In it's place .... A tiny "cheap" gas station. What a terrible waste.