Indiana Landmarks has launched a campaign to save an 1880s-era row house in Evansville. The organization is seeking $440,000 in hopes of preventing demolition of the Owen Block building. January 16, 2015
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Every city needs stunning, unusual places that inspire passersby to slow down and say “Wow!” Even in its dilapidated state, surrounded by a fence to protect the public from falling brick, Evansville's Owen Block fills the “cool” bill. Indiana Landmarks considers the Second Empire-style row house a “must save,” says Marsh Davis, the nonprofit organization's president. The statewide group is raising money to prevent the demolition of the building at the corner of Second and Chestnut streets in the Riverside Historic District.
The building has a growing army of passionate fans. It even has its own Facebook page, Owen Block Preservation Effort, recently created by local supporters who call themselves blockheads. In less than a week, the page – https://www.facebook.com/owenblockevansville – surpassed 1,850 likes. Indiana Landmarks, with help from the blockheads, Riverside residents, preservationists and the City, hopes to head off a demolition order.
Indiana Landmarks took an option on the rare 1882 row house and spent money on an engineering analysis. The discouraging verdict means that to save the place, Indiana Landmarks must raise $440,000 to cover stabilization of the fa?ade and partial rehab, an amount that could not be recouped by a developer. “If we can cover the immediate stabilization required by the city to insure public safety and make a start on the rehab, we’ll be filling the financial gap that has caused developers to walk away,” Davis says.
Two Riverside residents offered $10,000 each as a challenge to kick-start the fundraising, and another increased the challenge by a $20,000 contribution. An Indiana philanthropist pledged $100,000. The City of Evansville will invest $50,000 to save the historic corner, an amount less than it would have spent to demolish the structure.
At the January 22 meeting of the Evansville Building Commission, Indiana Landmarks will request an extension of the date for a demolition order. “The extension will allow us to raise money for the stabilization and secure approval for purchase and rehabilitation from Indiana Landmarks’ directors at our February board meeting,” Davis says.
“The Owen Block building is clearly important to the community, as evidenced by the groundswell of support and the city's response to it,” says Jesika Ellis, founder of the Owen Block Preservation Effort. “The effort appears to be most important to people 25-34 years of age. The young professional demographic understands the concept of new urbanism and values what historic preservation adds to a community,” she notes.
“Our goal is to raise $440,000 in order to convince the Evansville Building Commission to stay the execution of the Owen Block,” Davis says. To donate to save the Owen Block, call Indiana Landmarks, 800-450-4534, or click the “Donate Now!” button on the home page at www.indianalandmarks.org. On the second screen, don’t forget to type “Owen Block” in the comments section.
Source: Indiana Landmarks