More History Lost

Once again the city’s historical fabric has been endangered by a negligent landlord who’s more interested in his purse strings than properly maintaining his historic rental property located in the Scarritt Point National Register Historic District.

The term for this is demolition by neglect and it occurs when property owners don’t put aside any funds for maintenance and repair of their building much less the historic façade. The Dog is of course talking about the Barborworth Apartments located at the corner of Gladstone Boulevard and Thompson Avenue. The building was constructed in the late 1890’s when Gladstone Boulevard and Independence Boulevard were home to the city’s well-heeled gentry. The Barborworth Apartments featured hardwood floors, spacious floor plans and pocket doors that separated the various rooms in the apartments.

The Barborworth maintained its pedigree over the years better than most multi-unit structures in Historic Northeast and is a mainstay along the South Gladstone Boulevard corridor. Antique postcards published early in the 20th century show the stately building complete with large sun porches that overlooked the boulevard below. Those porches however are the center of a debate between the building’s owner and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

A few months ago the porches on the Southeast corner of the building were removed by the owner without the consent of the city’s Landmarks Commission. The work prompted a visit by Bradley Wolf, the city’s head of the Historic Preservation Commission who ordered the owner to cease the porch demolition and to file a restoration plan with the city. Shortly after Wolf’s visit to the property, scaffolding went up around the porches on the Northeast corner of the building complete with bright orange wrapping around the power lines. This sparked additional discussion about the building’s owner continuing his “demolition by neglect” and destroying the historic façade of arguably the largest and stateliest apartment building in the community. A hearing is set for this Friday at city hall in front of the Historic Preservation Commission that would allow the owner to continue his wanton destruction of a historic property. That has this news-dog hoppin’ mad to say the least.

This historically minded news-dog doesn’t think too much of these slumlords who continue to destroy the historic fabric of the community. We don’t take a liking to developers who do the same but that’s a story for another day. Here’s the bottom line. If you don’t have the scratch to fix your historic property and fix it properly, in accordance with the Department of Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation, then you don’t have any business owning historic properties. Owners of historic properties are merely stewards of history and the shining example of how this is done is happening right across the street to the north where the box-gutters on a historic home are being painstakingly replaced in order to maintain the historic integrity of the home. Such projects contribute to the historic character of the surrounding community. However, when a historic property is deliberately neglected then significantly altered in order to maintain the bottom line, this dog thinks maybe it’s time to get out of the business of historic property ownership. The Dog hopes the city’s Historic Preservation office takes a stand and makes an example in the name of historic preservation. The Dog and the community is watching.

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