A 142-year-old, Italianate-turned-Victorian historic house was just demolished in Smithland, Kentucky this week. The Dunn-Cherry House, built in 1867, was razed by town officials to make way for a new office building & library on the site.
As usual in cases such as these, local preservationists protested the loss of a one-of-a-kind historic property, with its links to prominant figures from the town’s history (including a U.S. Congressman). The town, on the other hand, claims 30 years of abandonment had driven the old house into a state of disrepair that made it structurally unsound, and too expensive to restore with taxpayer money.
As the house came crashing down, a local resident (who may have been in the minority among the sad spectators) agreed with the town’s decision: “Old buildings are nothing but expense. You can’t live in them and there’s no way to develop them— aint no way to do it,” added Elbert Thomason.
This raises the old question debated so often between preservationists & “progressives,” and even real estate developers/agents/remodelers who demolish or renovate historic properties: When is an old house not worth saving? When does historic preservation not make sense? And even when it seems too costly or impractical to save a historic property today, might the demolition seem a mistake in the future, after it is too late?