Ferncliff board agrees to delay demolition until at least September

The Ferncliff Cemetery board of trustees met Tuesday with a member of the Turner Foundation to look at options besides demolition for its 19th century superintendent’s home.

The board members agreed to delay any demolition of the stone house designed by a famed local architect until at least September and will revisit the issue at its board meeting that month.

Ferncliff Cemetery Trustee Ski Schanher said after the meeting that Turner Foundation Historian Kevin Rose talked with the board members about alternatives to demolition, including a family that may move want to move into it and restore it.

“(Rose) just basically presented the side of the coin that we had not really considered, because we are not residential owners. We are not real estate people. We are not preservationist. We are about conducting the business of cemetery,” Schanher said.

The board still wants to keep ownership of the property so any tenant would have to rent it, Schanher said.

It’s now a matter of making the dollars and cents — as well as the legalities — add up, he said.

“We need numbers and we need figures and (Rose) is going to come back in September with those,” Schanher said.

Rose declined to comment on the details of his presentation, but said he will research several options.

“Right now is the goal is to look more broadly at the possibilities at this house,” Rose said.

The home was built in the 1890s by Springfield architect Charles Creager. He also designed what’s now the Heritage Center of Clark County, as well as St. John and St. Raphael churches.

It’s fallen into disrepair, including water damage and animal droppings. The board has gotten estimates for repairs that range from $300,000 to $500,000, Walthall said, while demolition would likely cost about $20,000.

Rose said he understands why the cemetery would like to demolish the building considering it has sat vacant for years.

“They are thinking on their bottom line,” he said.

But, this building, like many other structures in the Springfield area, is worth saving, he said. Rose said he will gather estimates in the next three months.

“We don’t need an empty landmark,” he said.

Melissa Tuttle has two centuries of ancestors buried in Ferncliff and is also on the Springfield Historic Landmarks Commission. The commission earlier this spring placed the cemetery superintendent’s house on list of properties that could be considered for nomination as a local landmark.

The commission members also agreed Monday to reach out to the Ferncliff trustees.

“This building is not something that should go to the landfill like so many buildings do,” Tuttle said.

She argued it is an important part of the community and Springfield’s history. She’d like it to go back to its original purpose as a home for someone who works at the cemetery.

“There are so many ground crews that work here that I’m sure one of them might need a place to live,” she said. “They already rent from somebody else. Why not rent and live on the facility and enjoy that building, because it is such a remarkable structure.”

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