First home leveled for new Elyria High
ELYRIA — A bit after 2 p.m. Monday, Bob Harlow had very little to say as the second-floor bedroom of his former home was torn to pieces.
But a terrific smile that spilled across his 68-year-old face said it all as a mammoth excavator rip into the mint-green house at 619 Middle Ave.
The excavator took devastating chomps from the house, a mechanical Tyrannosaurus tearing apart tresses, beams, the chimney and every element that made the Harlow house a home for almost 30 years.
In that home, children were conceived, stories were told and holidays were celebrated. But you wouldn’t get any tears from Harlow.
“Boy, are they ever doing me a favor,” Harlow said. “I was gonna sell this place anyway.”
His house was the first felled to make way for the new Elyria High School.
The $68 million project requires the school district to expand south and gobble up dozens of properties that sit between Middle and West avenues and Sixth and Seventh streets.
To date, just two property owners have refused to sell for the amount the district offered: Elbert Investments, which owns a batch of properties on Seventh Street and Middle Avenue, and New UC Partners, owner of the apartment buildings on Sixth Street, across from the current high school.
While those two property owners are still in negotiation with the school district — the affair is quickly approaching a legal battle — there are dozens of other property owners like Harlow who agreed to sell.
The district has shelled out more than $3.1 million for all the purchased properties — the district was hoping to keep the cost around $3 million — but with nearly every property now in the district’s hands, the demolition part got started.
This past fall, project contractors razed a dilapidated building at the corner of Sixth Street and Middle Avenue, a house with a defunct pizza shop connected to it. It was the first actual building the school district demolished, but it was vacant.
Harlow’s house, on the other hand, was his actual home. And on Monday, he wasn’t sorry to see it go.
“I lived in it up until Aug. 7,” Harlow said. “I took the money they gave me, and I bought a nice place on Imperial Court. It’s a nice neighborhood.”
His home was appraised a little more than $70,000, and the school district paid him $100,000.
“I planned to sell it anyway, but I never would have gotten what the school gave me,” Harlow said. “Besides, they need a new high school.”
Harlow watched as the excavator tore open his second-floor bedroom.
“That doorway on the left was a bathroom, actually, and then one on the right was a closet,” he said. Seconds later the entire rear half of the house disappeared into a pile of rubble.
Harlow, a retired General Motors worker, chuckled when he tried to remember how many children he raised in the home.
“Shoot, there was a whole slew of them,” he said. “Two, three, four — maybe half a dozen. I dunno. Is this gonna be in the paper tomorrow?"
Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.