Saturday, August 4, 2018

An insoluble problem?

There is a house that I pass on my daily commute. A few months ago, it burned. No people were hurt but apparently several dogs died. I guess the people weren't home. It's sad because the house was dated to 1801. Most people don't care about old stuff any more but I do.

The house was totaled -- the roof is gone but for a few charred rafters, and it's gutted. But the walls are still standing. It's a godawful eyesore. It's at the intersection of two state roads, across the street from a small supermarket, and diagonally across from a historic site, the Prudence Crandall School for Girls. Prudence taught African-American girls in the 19th Century, which was quite progressive of her, and the site is now a museum. There are other old houses around there and it's all very scenic -- except for the burned out house.

Apparently the people didn't have insurance, because there's no sign of anybody showing up to tear the house down. (I'm pretty sure it can't be rebuilt.) The yard is now overgrown. Every time it rains the house rots a little bit more, but the wreckage will be there pretty much forever if nothing is done about it.

This is in a small town that can barely afford to plow the snow and keep the schools open. The lot is tiny, and there is no reason why anybody would want to buy it, especially if that means removing the wreckage. There is already a shopping area down the street with two restaurants, two liquor stores, a pub, a pharmacy, a multi-pump gas station and minimart, and several other small businesses so there's no evident reason why anyone would want the property for commercial purposes.

So I can't think of any solution. As far as I can figure I'm going to have to drive by the burned out house five days a week until I retire. The locals are going to have to look at it every time they go grocery shopping, and the tourists and schoolchildren on field trips are going to have to look at it when they check out Prudence Crandall. For 100 years. Unless somebody has an idea.


  1. We, too, have a similar situation down the road from us, but it is a double-wide rather than an historic home.

    My WV county did not have any building code standards until 2006 or so. Now that we do, there is permitting process for construction and also for demolition. My point being, even if the owners or a maybe a local community organization wanted to clean up the wreckage, there might be legal and/or financial obstacles.

  2. Yep, somebody has to pay for it. The owners may have some sort of legal obligation, but the only recourse if they don't pay (which they probably can't) is for the town to seize the property. And the property is worthless. So it's a gordian knot.

  3. Sounds like they should turn the moron vandals loose on it and give them something productive to do!