Preservationists this week were running short on options for saving a local home built by a Revolutionary War veteran.
Upper Arlington Historical Society President Charlie Groezinger said Monday afternoon, Nov. 11, he doubted the 192-year-old Hutchinson House on Riverside Drive could be saved from demolition.
Still, he said, he wasn't ready to throw in the towel until professional home-movers could tour the home this week and determine if it could be relocated intact.
"We're still trying to get a house-mover in and a structural engineer in to give us a final decision," Groezinger said. "It doesn't look good."
The Hutchinson House, 5292 Riverside Drive, dates back to 1821 when Revolutionary War veteran Amaziah Hutchinson began its construction.
Hutchinson died in 1823, before the stone house was completed, but his son, Amaziah Hutchinson Jr., took up the project and completed it later that year.
It's been sitting near the corner of what now is Riverside Drive and Bethel Road ever since, making it one of the oldest homes in Franklin County and one of the few still standing that's affiliated with a Columbus-area Revolutionary War veteran.
Now, the home appears destined for demolition, as it stands in the way of Preferred Living's four-story, 256-apartment Berkley House project on 9.8 acres south of Bethel Road. The property was annexed by Upper Arlington this year from Perry Township.
The company, which did not return five phone calls and an email, began to clear the land for its project Nov. 4.
In a statement released Nov. 8 through the city of Upper Arlington, Preferred Living said it would hold off razing the Hutchinson House until Nov. 15 while historical-society officials and other interested groups work to relocate the home.
While that remains a hope, Groezinger said it's likely the house will be demolished and the historical society will seek to save some of the stone building materials that could be used to build some kind of feature, with a plaque to describe the history of the house they once formed.
Groezinger said Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Director Tim Moloney has said the stone can be stored by the city until a suitable project could be planned.
"If they tell me it can't be saved, we'll try to salvage some of the stone and put it in an Arlington park," Groezinger said. "If we can move it, then we'll try to talk to (Preferred Living) and see if they'll give us a little more time to look into it."
As part of Preferred Living's project, Upper Arlington City Council provided the company with an eight-year incentive in May that will pay the city $7,000 annually until a 25,000-square-foot office building is constructed as part of the project.
Additionally, Preferred Living must annually provide at least $45,000 in property taxes from the residential portion of the development and $10,000 in income taxes from workers employed in the office.
In exchange, the company will receive a 20-percent rebate on property taxes the city collects for the residential building and a 20-percent rebate of the property and income taxes collected by the city for the office building.
City officials informed both the Upper Arlington and Dublin historical societies about the possible historical significance of the Hutchinson House, but not until after Upper Arlington granted Preferred Living a demolition permit Nov. 1.
That essentially gave preservationists 10 days to act.
"It is my understanding that approximately a year ago, the parks and recreation director, Tim Moloney, mentioned to our community and economic development manager, Bob Lamb, there was an old home on the prospective development site," Upper Arlington Community Affairs Director Emma Speight said. "The pending start of the project -- i.e., site clearing in readiness for construction -- was discussed at a staff meeting of multiple members of staff the week of Oct. 29, at which time Tim Moloney asked about the old home to the broader group.
"It was at this point that those of us who had not been aware of the home determined we should reach out to members of the historical society so that, if they had interest in seeing the home and exploring options for cataloguing it or possibly obtaining some items of historic value, they could reach out to the developer accordingly."
Groezinger said he's disappointed more wasn't done to protect the home because of its history.
"It's such a historic house," he said. "It was built 40 years before the Civil War. It has survived 40 different presidents.
"It's just a shame it's survived this long only to have someone decide they want to build a couple new apartment buildings and destroy it."
Groezinger further blamed his own organization for not having a procedure in place for identifying historically relevant houses in Upper Arlington that are located outside the city's historic preservation district. He noted the fact the Hutchinson House wasn't annexed into Upper Arlington until June possibly complicated the issue.
"There's a communications problem we have here, but I think the historical society is as much to blame as the city," he said. "It's a failure of communication on both parts and we're going to fix it."
In the meantime, he said he's pleased with the community's response, which has included offers to provide financial assistance to relocate the house.
"We've had a number of offers to donate, including someone who said he'd give us $5,000 and has land in Dublin where we could relocate the home," he said. "I'm not as concerned about the money as in the time we have and the ability to do it."