May 12, 2011 10:24:00 AM
The Friendship House belongs to the ages. The home, built in 1890, was razed to the ground Wednesday by its owner, First Baptist Church. Back hoes and dump trucks were on the property mere hours after a deadline expired set by the church, which was offering the home for $1 to anyone who would move it.
Moving the home was an expensive proposition -- as much as $200,000, by one estimate. Many more thousands of dollars would be required to restore the home.
The month-long reprieve for the home, however, came only after outcry over the church''s plan to demolish it. While at least one serious offer to buy the home, and the lot, was made to the church, it saw more value in building a parking lot on the lot occupied by the house.
If anything, this episode is a lesson in poor public relations. The church attempted to fly under the radar, and was clearly intent on demolishing the house, not saving it. Instead of explaining their motives, church leaders were tight-lipped during the episode.
A bigger issue is at hand here: First Baptist is leaving downtown. The empty lot where the Friendship House once stood will be part of an empty church. The congregation is moving to a new facility on Bluecutt Road.
The church, ever silent, has not adequately explained its reasoning, and its urgency, in clearing the historic Victorian home for a parking lot that will be unnecessary anyway, once the church is left vacant.
As they say, it''s all over but the shouting. Columbus has lost a historic treasure in the Friendship House. A large, historic church downtown will soon also be a memory.
Owners of Columbus'' other historic properties should be mindful of this episode when making decisions about the future of their homes. Columbus cares about its history; our historic architecture is a community resource, and we expect its owners to make every effort to preserve it -- and to be open and forthright about their decisions affecting it.