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Friday, August 2, 2013

Question the Queen City: Update on the Richard Wearn House

Posted By on Fri, Aug 2, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Editor's note: In this series, local author David Aaron Moore answers reader-submitted questions about unusual, noteworthy or historic people, places and things in Charlotte. Submit inquires to davidaaronmoore@gmail.com.

A little over a year ago you wrote a story about the Richard Wearn House on Tuckaseegee Road in west Charlotte. I've noticed some construction activity going on around the property over the past few weeks. What gives? - Richard Hearn, Charlotte

Built in 1844, the Wearn House is about to turn 170. It is one of the oldest structures in Charlotte and the west side's biggest and best claim to historic architectural fame.

In 2007, Magnolia Acres LLC purchased the 25-acre property at auction from Bank of America. After the economic crash the following year, the group of investors halted plans for development.

But Magnolia Acres has now come up with the funding to create a new subdivision - named Magnolia Acres - on the property. Over the past few months, Magnolia has been busy clearing the former farm-turned plant nursery of its many mature trees and plants, making it ready for the massive new neighborhood.

Does that spell imminent death for the Wearn House? Quite possibly.

Is there any hope that the historic landmark can be saved? Perhaps.

Terry Davis, an owner of Magnolia Acres, said he'd like to see the house saved.

"We're hoping to find a buyer for the house or see if we can work out some kind of deal that will allow us to donate it to the city and get a of tax write-off of some sort," Davis said. "So far, however, we haven't been able to come to terms with any kind of agreement."

The last tax evaluation of the house and surrounding buildings estimated their worth at about $100,000. Davis insists he would be more than happy to sell the house - which, if purchased, will be left on a street-front lot - for a price in that range. "That would be much more preferable than tearing it down," he said.

Davis told me that Garry Smith, one of his partners in Magnolia Acres, is in the process of filing paperwork with the Historic Landmark Commission that will allow the company to demolish all of the property's structures if a buyer is not found. Magnolia cannot move forward with demolishing the house or surroundings buildings without the commission's approval.

Commission Director Dan Morrill confirmed that he and Smith have exchanged voicemails, but a petition for demolition has yet to be filed.

"If he does apply with us to request demolition, the commission can delay the process for up to 365 days," Morrill said. "There's no question it's an old house, it goes way back ... its importance to the west side are significant factors to be taken into consideration when it comes up for review. The commission will definitely do its civic responsibility."

The commission will meet August 12 and September 9 at 6 p.m. An architectural-review meeting, where Morrill will pitch the idea of saving the Wearn House, is slated for August 28 at 8 a.m. All of the meetings will take place at 2100 Randolph Road and are all open to the public.

"Now is the time for residents of the area who want to see [the Wearn House] saved to let that be known," Morrill said. "Reach out to your county commissioner and your city council representative and make them aware of the desire to save the house and attend the upcoming meetings. Any expression of support from the community will have a big impact on the future of Wearn House."

The city council representative for the region is LaWana Mayfiled. She can be reached at lmayfield@charlottenc.gov, 704-336-3435 or 704-352-7305. The region's county commissioner, Vilma Leake, can be contacted at vilma.leake@mecklenburgcountync.gov or 704-336-2088. To express your concerns about the new property development - or to discuss purchasing the property - email Davis at terry@davishomesinc.com.

To learn more about the history of Wearn House check out my earlier article here.

Moore is the author of Charlotte: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem. His writings have appeared in numerous publications throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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