News Column

Demolition of 125-year-old Chardonnay house begins

June 19, 2014

By Edie Grossfield, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.



June 19--Demolition workers this morning began taking down the Chardonnay house, a 125- year-old, Queen Anne-style landmark on Second Street Southwest that has been at the center of controversy over the city's commitment to heritage preservation.

Historic preservationists have attempted to save the house at 723 Second Street S.W., just west of the Gift of Life Transplant House, but the owner, Curtis Schuster, said the house was in poor condition, and he planned to raze it to make way for new development.

Breanna Bly, a resident director at the Better Chance House next door, said a man in a bulldozer began tearing off the back part of the house about 9:30 a.m.

"He just tore off the back area, which was part of the kitchen, and then he left. I don't know if that's all he's going to do today. But the back of the house is all gone. I would have thought he would have given us a little heads up," she said of the property owner.

Schuster has owned the house for about four years, at one time leasing it to a restaurant business and then later operating a restaurant himself with his wife for a while. He said he tried to find ways to renovate and reuse the house or find somebody to do so, but the renovation costs were too high to make a deal work.

Schuster found a buyer for the property, but not the house -- the purchase agreement requires him to raze it. The buyer plans to construct a commercial building there. When he sought a demolition permit from the city, he ran into opposition from people who say the house should be saved because of its historical and architectural value.

The city's Heritage Preservation Commission voted to recommend that the City Council deny the demolition permit, but the council approved the permit.

Bly said she's sad to see the house come down.

"You know, it's always sad. I mean, it's a historical home, but it was in need of repair. It's too bad somebody couldn't have come and found the dollars to restore it or move it, but I do know it was in pretty bad shape. Lots of water damage and mold and things like that. I don't think it was well-cared-for over the last several years," she said.

Rep. Tina Liebling, of Rochester, tweeted this morning, ""his is a sad day for #rochmn. Hard to understand why we can't save our beautiful historic buildings."

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(c)2014 the Post-Bulletin

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Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)


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