Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When the best preservation efforts go up in smoke.

My latest is up at Urban Indy.  It focuses on a charming Victorian double in the historic neighborhood of St. Joseph, immediately north of downtown Indianapolis, perfectly visible in this Google Streetview image.

At least, that's how it looked in the summer of 2009.  This is what it looks like now:
It's gone.  Demolished.  One could argue that protections for "contributing buildings" in Historic Districts don't give enough teeth to enforce demolition, but that wasn't the problem here.  In the spring of 2010, the building burned to the ground--a fire of undetermined origin.

My research, revealed in full at Urban Indy, determined that it was not a suspicious fire by a landowner who wanted to rid himself of the structural albatross in order to offer the adjacent apartment buildings some quick-and-easy off-street parking.  I actually spoke with the owner of this tragically destroyed home, who made every attempt to save it.  The actual narrative, and the parcel's uncertain future, get full exploration, in an attempt to reconcile the need to preserve the "character" of a historic district (always a fuzzy word) with the understandable aspiration to maximize the marketability of a small, constrained piece of land.  Comments and further observations are strongly encouraged--residents of the St. Joseph neighborhood would certainly appreciate what outsiders might have to say!