Commission to consider city’s vote to demolish Carter house

Published 5:03 pm Monday, May 1, 2017

Washington’s Historic Preservation Commission, during its meeting Tuesday, is scheduled to consider the city’s request to demolish the Carter house next to Brown Library.

The City Council, after coming out of a closed session April 10, voted 3-2 to seek a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the house at 415 W. Second St. That decision created controversy, with some people opposed to the demolition saying the council’s action was improper because the matter was not on the agenda for the council’s April 10 meeting. They also accuse the city of acting behind the public’s back in decided to seek permission to demolish the building.

In an April 21 letter from the city, owners of property adjoining the house were notified of the city’s request to demolish the house.

A city document lists two possible actions by the commission. One action would allow for the immediate demolition of the house should the commission determine the request “is in congruous with the Historic Preservation Commission Design Guidelines, specifically Section 6.0 Demolition and Relocation.” The second action is the same as the first action, but it would delay demolition for up to 365 days.

In January, those who want to save the house made that request to the council. At that meeting, Henry Clay Carter IV, a cousin of the Henry Clay Carter who had the house built, made a plea to save the house. “It’s nice that my family’s house is, hopefully, going to be saved, but it’s more important for us to preserve a structure that represents time, place, a way of thinking and a way of living that represents Washington,” Carter said then.

The Brown Library Board of Trustees approached city officials about moving or tearing down the house, built in the 1930s, as part of a plan to expand the library and provide more parking spaces.

Two reports — one by an engineering firm hired by the city and one by an engineering firm hired by the Washington Area Historic Foundation — provide different opinions on the condition of the house. Both firms evaluated the house Jan. 12. The reports provide detailed information about the structural soundness of the house and recommendations for addressing observed problems with the house.

Curtis McLawhorn, with McLawhorn Engineering, wrote: “Due to the current condition of the structure, extensive repairs would be required to safely reoccupy the building. … Considering the age of the structure and the overall state of disrepair, the cost to restore the structure at its current location would be significant. This cost is increased with the moving and setting up of the building at a new site, as well as any additional items required at that site.”

Mark S. Roy, with RPA Engineering, wrote in his report: “Most of the damage described above is relatively minor. … The house is not structurally unstable or in danger of collapse and it is safe to enter the house to examine it and perform repairs. However, the house should not be occupied until the damaged floor framing is repaired.”


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike