November 28, 2014

Elyria
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City wants to level house, but history holds it up

916 Middle Ave. has sat empty for years since a fire. (CT Photo by Steve Manheim)

916 Middle Ave. has sat empty for years since a fire. (CT Photo by Steve Manheim)

ELYRIA – A public meeting is being held Monday to get feedback on the city’s plan to demolish a 111-year-old home that has the potential for historical designation.

Located at 916 Middle Ave., the house was built in 1890, but several years ago it caught fire, and as a result it now sits vacant. It is boarded up and has been that way for years. But the city’s Landmarks Commission would not sign off on the demolition and called the Ohio Historic Preservation Office to oppose razing it.

Now, a hearing has been set for 6 p.m. Monday in the third-floor conference room at Elyria City Hall.

Community Development Director Angie Byington said the city purchased the home in 2009 based on a building inspector recommendation it should come down.

“We’ve had numerous nuisance phone calls and break-ins on that property, and we are trying to get it demolished,” Byington said.

Byington said that when the city buys a property, it has to first get the approval of the state agency that handles historic buildings before it can tear it down. Normally, there is not an issue, but in this case the city’s Landmarks Commission is concerned the Middle Avenue neighborhood could be a possible future historic district.

Tom Aden, a local preservationist with the commission, said he and another member of the group took several pictures of the house, neighboring homes, the streetscape and any other nearby buildings of architectural significance. While they were not certain 916 Middle Ave. was eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, he also said they could not say it wasn’t.

That is why they sent the objection to the Columbus agency.

“There is nothing wrong with preserving history,” he said. “I know a lot of people go to Europe to see historic landmarks. But I think it’s a shame we can’t appreciate the stuff that is in our backyard.”

Aden said the group is not there to say the building should not be torn down.

“We did not want to be on record on the demolition of a property that could be an asset in a potential historic district,” he said. “We will let the review take its course, and it is the city and Columbus that will come up with a memorandum of understanding about the property.”

Byington said to that end, the city is doing its part to mitigate the Commission’s concerns by holding a public meeting.

In Elyria, most of the downtown area and portions of adjacent neighborhoods are listed as a national registry district. The national district ties into the West by the River District, which is a locally designated historic district that has been in place since 1989.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.