Speakers insist council rescind demolition vote

Published 7:40 pm Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Several people urged the Washington City Council, during its meeting Monday, to “rescind” its vote to demolish the Carter house next to Brown Library.

Several speakers said it makes no sense for the city to pay about $100,000 to create about 10 new parking spaces for the library. The city paid $80,000 for the house in 2015. Speakers estimated the cost to tear down the house at $20,000.

Councilwoman Virginia Finnerty added discussion about the house to the council’s meeting agenda.

On April 10, 2017, a 3-2 council vote started the 365-day clock toward demolition of the house on West Second Street, built by Henry Clay Carter III and his wife Marjorie in 1930. The city pursued the demolition option to pave the way for library expansion and additional parking.

“A year is almost up. I think we need to make a decision as to what’s going to happen,” Finnerty said.

Demolishing the house would be counter to the part of the city’s mission statement that addresses historic preservation and preserving the city’s Southern charm, she said. “I don’t think tearing down historic homes speaks to that mission… We cannot be a quaint, historic town if we continue to tear down the historic buildings in our town, nor can we expect our citizens to follow our guidelines if we continue to have a do as I say, not as I do attitude. We need to lead by example,” she said.

Don Stroud, a historic district resident and president of the Washington Area Historic Foundation, urged the council to not do further damage to the historic district’s character by allowing the house to be demolished. He said there are options when it comes to saving the house. One of those options is to allow Preservation North Carolina to market and sell the house on behalf of the city. Preservation North Carolina has a history of helping preserve historic structures by doing that, he said. Revenue generated by the sale of the house would go to the city, he noted.

“It is disturbingly ironic that you, the City Council, is the very body that created the historic district and that the library is the repository of our shared written history, and the two have combined to destroy a part of it,” Stroud said. “I’m asking you rescind the ordinance that has passed to destroy the house. … Once that wrecking ball hits, there’s no going back. There’s no building another one like it. It won’t happen.”

John Wood, representing the Greenville office of the State Historic Preservation Office, said the house “retains a high degree of historic integrity.” Wood said SHPO strongly recommends the house not be demolished.

Wood also suggested the city consider enlisting Preservation North Carolina to help in preserving and rehabilitating the house. “If purchased by a private property owner, that property, of course, could be put back on the tax rolls for the City of Washington,” Wood said.

After the speakers made their pleas, the council took no action regarding the house.

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.

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