Palestine’s Southside Historic Residential District, once a neighborhood of the city’s finest structures, will soon lose another historic home that can’t be replaced.
The city’s Building and Standards Commission, an eight-member board, decreed a demolition of the Victorian wood frame house at 110 E. Reagan St. within two months, unless someone takes an interest in saving it with costly repairs.
One of the two-story home’s exterior walls recently collapsed, leaving a broad opening in the side. Its condition continues to deteriorate due to water damage and lack of repair.
Demolition will cost roughly $12,000, which the city does not have funds to finance. If the owner cannot hire someone to improve the house or demolish it, the city will place a lien on the property and the family will owe the city money.
Demolition of a substandard historic property usually occurs after years of interventions from the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission and Development Services department. Mark Miears, who directs Development Services, said the condition of the house was greatly deteriorated before his department declared the house substandard.
City laws require a process of notifications and waiting periods, which can last from 90 days to several years, depending on how property owners respond and whether they submit an appeal. Miears said his department initiated contact with owners of the Reagan Street house about three years ago.
In the past year, the city condemned and demolished two other similar properties. A historic house just two blocks away, at 416 S. Sycamore St., was demolished after decades of neglect and continued attempts to request repairs.
“It was falling to the ground,” said Julie Abston, chair of Palestine’s Historic Landmarks Commission.
The city demolished another historic house at 217 W. Palestine Ave., near Sonic, at a cost of roughly $12,000 earlier this year. The neglected property was attracting drug users and other criminal activity.
Finally, the city’s Building and Standards Commission reviews the case. If a condemned property’s owners don’t respond to letters and don’t make necessary repairs, the board may vote for demolition, but only as a last step, Miears said.
Owners typically have 30 to 60 days to remove their belongings after a demolition decree passes. The owner of 110 East Reagan St. has 60 days due to the family’s financial hardship.
“It’s a long process, but we have to make sure we do everything right, otherwise we risk tearing down a house we shouldn't be tearing down,” Miears said.
Abston told the Herald-Press the Historic Landmarks Commission makes many attempts to prevent deterioration that can lead to demolition.
“It looks like we aren’t concerned, and that’s not true,” Abston said. “I would love to see [the owners] get some help. They think that we don’t do anything. I try my best all the time to get something accomplished.”
After years of communicating with the owner, both Miears and Abston said it may not be too late for the Reagan Street house.
“It could be purchased and someone could redo it,” Abston said. “It’s better to keep things in shape and have income for the [city’s] tax revenue than to let it fall apart.”