Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Moorish Revival gem in disrepair
Preservationists are fretting over the fate of the Bardwell-Ferrant House, a Moorish Revival house located at 2500 Portland Avenue South in Minneapolis. Two years ago, the 1883 house sold for $385,000 (minus about $7,700 in owner upgrades). Today, Countrywide Mortgage is trying to unload the foreclosed property for $229,900.

After touring the Bardwell-Ferrant House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, Realtor Connie Nompelis issued a Preservation 911 on her blog. "Broken newel-post, kicked-out porch rail, cracked, missing and half-pried-away stained glass windows were among the worst atrocities we spied," she wrote. "And of course three of the four fireplace mantels had been brutally yanked from their walls."

Nompelis' blog is called The Healy House because she lives in the Healy Block Residential Historic District, which includes portions of the 3100 blocks of Second Ave South and Third Avenue South in Minneapolis.

Built in the Queen Anne style in 1883, the second owner of the Bardwell-Ferrant House moved it from its original location at 1800 Park Avenue to 2500 Portland. He hired an architect to create the Moorish Revival facade with what critic Larry Millet describes as "onion-domed towers and a wraparound porch with spindle-work columns."

Vandals tried to remove a half-circle, stained glass window in one of the onion-domed towers, Nompelis reports. The house is currently configured as a four-plex. Activists are hoping the next buyer is an historic enthusiast who wants to convert it to a duplex or single-family home.

One big problem may its location in the West Phillips neighborhood. "It's pretty isolated there," Nompelis says. "It's mostly rentals and a lot of boarded-up residences. That can be intimidating to some people."


Ranty said...

Thanks so much for your attention to this!

Nathan said...

Save the Bardwell-Ferrant House! Somebody!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Todd for being the first journalist to cover this important story. The Bardwell-Ferrant house is unique and historically important.

Yet it also represents an issue...what can a community do to save it's historic structures from
negligent owners or a mortgage company's that have no interest in
physically maintaining the architectural health or historical integrity of the building?

Can preservation organizations raise funds or set up trusts to
purchase such properties? Can
such organizations work with
City, State and Federal agencies
to get such houses moved, get tax
breaks and rehab funding.

Can preservation organizations create programs to assist individuals in purchasing such
buildings, and if low interest
loans or funding are given, if
the owner tries to sell the property within five years,
all the loans would have to
be repaid and the ownership
of the property would revert
to the preservation organization.

But with the sole exception of preservation activist and architect
Bob Roscoe who is speaking out about the lack of enforcement of the 549 Preservation Ordinance...
and overworked and understaffed
inspections local preservation organizations have expressed sympathy and frustration and
have had discussed the issue
amoung themselves, but they have taken NO ACTION.

They say they have no legal or financial or political power to
actually DO ANYTHING to save historic buildings, but what
are they doing to change that?

And why do they exist at all if they have no power and take no
action to get it?

Connie Nompelis, one individual,
went to the media to alert the public about the condition of
the house...

Connie Nompelis, one individual,
asked people to contact Bob Lilligren to get the house
secured when those responsible for
it did nothing...and she did it!

In the 70s,80s and 90s Minneapolis
saw the rescue of Milwaukee Avenue
the Healy Block, historic houses
were moved to Nicollet Island, Architect Edward Stebbins House
was moved with others to Stevens
Avenue near the MIA and in 1991 the
Elisha Morse cupola house was moved
to a safe new location by the Whittier Alliance.

In Minneapolis now, it seems that
more historic buildings are demolished than are saved.

So why can't the Minnesota Preservation Alliance, Preserve Minneapolis, the Phillips West
Neighborhood Association and the
corporate entities like Wells Fargo
and Fairview Ebenezer and PPL join
with CPED and private investors...
and purchase the Bardwell-Ferrant
house and move it away from the
dangerous and isolated location
it is in to a new site where it
can be restored and become an honored and protected historic
resource for this community?

It could be done if they would all
work together. I won't be done
if they continue to say "isn't that
a shame, that's SO frustrating...
good luck with saving that house!..
we can't or won't do anything to help!

Anonymous said...

I have more to say...I don't have info on what funding most preservation organizations have or the professional or financial profiles of their members or boards...

Many preservation organizations are
cash poor, a few get grants and have
some funding, all wish for board members like Dick and Nancy Nicholson
of St. Paul, who are related to the
founders of 3M, have restored two mansions on Summit Ave and were sponsors of last year's National Preservation Conference.

So most preservation organizations
with the exception of the 1772 foundation and the National Trust
don't really have the money to purchase historic properties except
when a small determined group rallies round a specific building
and moves heaven and earth to save it. All too few buildings are
saved that way.

Now interesting thing is, in Minneapolis there is a preservation
organization co-founded and staffed
by a historical consultancy that has worked on every high profile development project in the City and

This historical consultancy has worked for rich and powerful developers and corporate clients...
and they are experts in obtaining
historic tax credits and working
expertly with every level of government...

I do not know of another preservation org that is so successful at working with all the
players who could not only provide
ample funding for a preservation
endowment or trust to purchase and
relocated historic buildings, but
can also get government cooperation
and support...

So why isn't this historical consultancy asking their very
well healed clients for funding?

Could it be for the same reason that they don't identify themselves
or their board members on their website?

The reason being...that their wealthy and powerful clients might
balk at paying for the services of
the historical consultancy
when they find out that they
are the co-founders of a preservation organization that
the rich and powerful perceive to be a "radical preservation" organization with members that could actually oppose the extreme rehab of a historic building or wholesale demolitions to make way for a hospital parking ramp, for instance?

So the historical consultancy who
has access to the people who have
the money and political power to save historic buildings can't ask these people for funds for fear of loosing their business...