May 16, 2011 10:37:00 AM
In the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday May 10th, stealthily taking place at 317 Seventh Street N. was destruction and demolition of a National Register Victorian gem, Friendship House. By 10 a.m. the grand old lady was no more than a heap of rubble, all to the tune of $9,400 paid for by First Baptist officials for demolition. Their demolition permit was still good for another four months, yet they chose to finish her off that day. The despicable deed was done. Columbus was once again robbed of a historical structure.
Their plea of not having funds to repair Friendship House after six years of willful neglect is a joke. Had FBC officials recognized the fact that it was indeed a National Register House they could have received 25% in state funding and 20% in federal funding to bring her back in good condition, all at a cost of 55% paid by them. Even on the day of demolition FBC officials ignorantly denied it to be the National Register entity that it was.
Ken P''Poole of Ms. Archive & History in Jackson, as well as Ms. Heritage Trust, both called Dr. Parker and informed him of that. Furthermore, a short walk to Columbus Public Library''s state of the art Columbus Archives & History could have been verified by the professional archivist, Ms. Mona Vance.
Any potential buyers could also have received this same federal & state funding. All six offers by Burnette Avakian, a recent widow, were ignored after being told several times to resubmit offers, hers being $35,000. Her plans for the home included a bed & breakfast, bridal luncheons, church groups, garden clubs, etc. all in a wonderful setting of 20 X 20 rooms, 13 foot ceilings, floor to ceiling windows and heart pine floors, nothing of which was salvaged from the demolished house.
My own offer of $35,000 was not addressed for three weeks until I called about it. It was eventually refused in a letter. I asked Dr. Parker to return with a purchase price to me. He never did. I asked Mr. Thomas Southerland on the day of demolition if he would have accepted $50,000 - answer "No!"
Their indifference to selling this property was a mockery of the three For Sale signs in the windows of Friendship House, later removed when shown on TV. Many in FBC congregation wanted to sell this property and encouraged us to purchase.
Columbus takes pride in their historical homes and are custodians of history that we share with our visitors at pilgrimage and other times of the year. It brings tremendous revenue to our listed historical city. I doubt anyone will want to tour our ever-growing amount of parking lots.
Perhaps they will tour the $19 million Baptist church on the hill on Bluecutt Road. Any new owner of Friendship House would have been paying $1,600 annually in property taxes to city and county. FBC did not, as they are a non-profit entity. No taxes in 10 years of ownership would have paid for part of repairs. There the city loses again.
We need stronger ordinance rules for preservation in this enlightened age of preserving our past. Mr. Kenny Wiegel must have been wearing blinders if he did not see the blatant neglect of Friendship House for the past six years. Our city leaders must address this ordinance change as soon as possible to insure no other historical home is lost.
We, the supporters and most of the people of Columbus, deplore this malicious destruction and we are mourning this tremendous loss to Columbus.
Good-bye Friendship House.