After a public hearing held Thursday, a local historic house has once again been spared from demolition.

But for how long isn't clear.

City officials held a public hearing on 10 houses they hope to raze as part of a state-funded effort to reduce blight.

But Jim and Debbie Wente, who live on Second Street, came to oppose the demolition of 222 S. Fourth St., located in the city's Historic District.

Indiana Landmarks, the state’s leading historic preservation group, asked that the house be removed from the blighted list in 2015 because it is a part of a national Historic District established by the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.

At one time, it was even listed as a “contributing” piece to the overall district.

Members of the Vincennes Knox Preservation Foundation, too, wanted to see it saved, but that's been more than two years ago.

Earlier this year, city inspector Philip Cooper said he was ready to move forward in tearing it down, but due to the Wentes' objections Thursday and “a private resident's” recent interest in possibly fixing it up, Cooper has once again put his plans on hold.

“Nothing's happened,” he said of the last two years. “If somebody is now interested in taking it and fixing it up, great.

“But if that doesn't go through, I'll tear it down.”

Indiana Landmarks' objection to the house's demolition would prohibit the city from using some of the more than $630,000 it got through the state's Hardest Hit Blight Elimination Fund.

Cooper said he would take money from the city's own Unsafe Building Fund to pay to raze it.

Jim and Debbie Wente said their interest was merely in wanting to see the house saved.

“People don't come to see a plaque,” she said, referring to historic properties that have been razed due to neglect and a historic marker put in their place.

The house, which has been vacant (at least of humans) for years, was built during the Civil War by former Mayor Henry Somes, according to local historian Richard Day said.

Little else is known about it.

Today, the abandoned house with its overgrown yard has become something of a resort for stray cats, who have taken up residency there in large numbers.

In the last two years, Vincennes officials have torn down nearly a dozen houses with blighted funds. It's not, however, proven to be an easy task.

The city must first acquire the properties, but given that owners aren't often easily persuaded to just hand them over or that they're bundled and owned by mortgage companies far away, it's proven to be a tedious, sometimes expensive, process.

To expedite things, county officials early this year gifted five properties — some of which are included in this list of 10 houses — to the city instead of allowing them to be sold at a commissioner's sale.

Also, Southern Indiana Development Commission, Loogootee, was hired by city officials to help Cooper and assistant inspector Randy Cheek navigate the rather complicated process.

The remaining houses on this, most recent list are: 303 N. 11th St., 1920 N. Second St., 135 E. Reel Ave., 1534 Mentor St., 803 N. Eighth St., 111 E. Reel Ave., 1321 Prairie St., 1010 E. Sycamore St. and 1327 Prairie St.

All of them, Cooper said, are ready for demolition except 135 E. Reel Ave. and 303 N. 11th St. The city has the deeds to those properties, he said, but they must first be inspected by the sate for environmental hazards.

As for the others, they will be let out for bid later this month. Those bids are then scheduled to be opened on Nov. 27 and a contract awarded on Dec. 12.

Cooper said he expects the cost for each to be somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000.

City officials hope to tear down at least 20 more homes, but the deadline to spend the grant money is Dec. 31.

Other Indiana communities, however, have been granted extensions, and Vincennes has applied for one.

They'll find next week if they've been successful, Cooper said.

Bicknell just received permission to extend their deadline out to the end of 2018. Officials there received more than $600,000 and have razed 20 homes so far. They hope to demolish at least another 10 next year.

(0) entries

Sign the guestbook.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.