A preservationist’s arguments that a 19th-century house should be preserved for its quarter-sawn oak, grand staircase and other historical features were drowned out when an excavator took sweeping bites out of the three-story Victorian on Wednesday morning.
At the end of the day, 1925 Park Av. in south Minneapolis was a heap of broken timbers and glass.
City officials had deemed the house to have no historic value, granting the owner permission to tear it down. One neighbor called it a crack house beyond repair.
But Nicole Curtis, host of the DIY network show “Rehab Addict,” pointed to its pocket doors, tiled fireplaces and other craftsmanship, saying it’s one of the few remaining original structures along the section of Park Avenue S. that once hosted some of the city’s wealthiest inhabitants.
“Today is like a funeral for me,” she said, minutes before the excavator began batting the house down.
Neighbor Chris Hannon said the house had fallen into disrepair, was known as a crack house and would take more money to fix it than it was worth. Curtis told onlookers that she had investors who would have helped her save the house.
Hannon, who didn’t recognize Curtis as the TV host who has successfully rehabbed older homes, said the recent history of the house was a “nightmare” for the neighborhood.
“We don’t want crack houses on our street,” she said. “I’m not disagreeing with what the lady is saying but the fact of the matter is we have to do what’s practical for our neighborhood.”
As the excavator roared to life, Curtis ran inside the house briefly, delaying the crew. She stepped back to the sidewalk by the time Minneapolis police officers called by the homeowner arrived. She and some of her supporters then stayed to document the razing of the house.
Not historically significant
The city reviewed the property before its scheduled demolition and determined it didn’t meet historic preservation guidelines, said John Smoley of the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development office.
His office reviews properties slated for demolition to ensure that a building considered significant to the “community’s shared heritage” isn’t destroyed.
The office considers seven criteria, including associations with significant people or events, architecture, landscape designs, city of neighborhood identity and others. If the property meets any of those criteria, it’s recommended for preservation and passed along to the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission for consideration.
Some 150 landmarks in Minneapolis have won preservation status from the commission, but 1925 Park Av. was never recommended for it, Smoley said.
A 2001 property survey in Minneapolis determined that 1925 Park wasn’t a historically significant property, he said.
He said the building, built in 1889 by the George Hoit Company, wasn’t the best remaining example of the Hoit Co.’s work. Smoley said he didn’t set foot inside the property himself, but relied on photographs supplied by the developer.
Preservation vs. progress
While saying he admired the work that Curtis has done rehabbing properties in other areas of Minneapolis, Smoley said the city must balance the need for historic preservation with the need to develop new properties.
“We can’t legally mandate the preservation of every building,” he said.
Curtis said she had offered to buy the house and move it to another vacant parcel on Park Avenue South. Those plans were apparently moving forward as late as Tuesday when she and her supporters learned that a demolition crew was on its way. Asked why the deal with owner Robert Anderson fell through, Curtis said she didn’t know.
“I have offered crazy money for this,” Curtis said. “This house was a shining example of old world architecture here in Minneapolis. It was just boarded. That was its only crime.”
Owner Robert Anderson could not be reached for comment.