To demo or not? Fulton Heights divided over vacant home

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 1, 2019

SALISBURY — At its November meeting, the Salisbury City Council approved several demolitions, one being the house at 1408 S. Fulton St.

But the demolition’s approval got the attention of the Historic Salisbury Foundation, as the Fulton Street home is on the border of the Fulton Heights neighborhood. The foundation saw it as a crucial piece of the historic district. But nearby residents are divided over the paused demolition.

Steve Cobb, of the Historic Salisbury Foundation, said he thinks the house dates back to 1906, which makes it older than houses in Fulton Heights. By looking at deeds, Cobb discovered the land was bought in 1904 for $250 and increased in value at $850 by 1906, indicating a house had been built. Cobb said the house was first shown on a 1925 fire map. Parts of the home such as some door knobs have features from the late 1800s, he said.

Cobb asked the Historic Preservation Commission, of which he is a member, to delay the demolition. He recused himself from the vote and spoke on behalf of the foundation.

Since the property is in the historic district, the commission granted a 90-day stay.

The home has been vacant for about a decade and needs exterior work, including trimming trees, cleaning brush and removing a deck. On the interior, the house was cleaned out and assessed for damage. Cobb said the structure of the home is still intact.

“This will be another successful rehabilitation,” said Cobb, adding the Historic Salisbury Foundation has completed 120 homes.

But residents of the Fulton Heights neighborhood are divided about the future of the home, said Theresa Pitner, vice president of the Fulton Heights Neighborhood Association. Some want the home to be demolished since it’s been an eyesore for years and has reportedly attracted vagrants and drug users into the neighborhood. Others want to preserve the historic home.

Kristin Stauffer lives near the property and wants the house to be demolished.

“Historic Salisbury Foundation had known about the house for 10 years but didn’t care about it until the neighborhood got a victory,” Stauffer said.

Stauffer says she and others feel an empty lot is better than a drug house.

Other Fulton Heights residents, Pitner said, say “if it has four walls, it’s worth preserving.”

Stauffer said residents of the neighborhood who want to preserve the house haven’t been dealing with the effects of the vacant property, including cleaning up beer and whiskey bottles as well as needles and drugs.

Cobb said he understands the frustrations the neighbors have.

The Historic Salisbury Foundation has been trimming trees and bringing in contractors to assess the state of the house. As that’s occurred, Stauffer said volunteers have been disrespectful to her. She says the foundation played “dirty” by being naive about the house’s condition for years.

The Historic Salisbury Foundation has until March to make improvements to the house. The City Council would then decide whether to forgo demolition, give more time for the house to be preserved or go forward with demolition.

Cobb said he hopes the city will see the home as a success story.

If the city decides not to demolish it, the Historic Salisbury Foundation plans to take over ownership of the property. The foundation would stabilize the house by ensuring the roof is leak-proof, refurbish windows and clean up the exterior.

Cobb expects it will take two months to work through paying back taxes and resolving liens in order to gain ownership. For six months, the foundation will stabilize the house. Then it would be put it on the market, with the condition that the new owners make the home livable within a year.

Contact reporter Liz Moomey at 704-797-4222.