Friday, August 14, 2009

Our Fabulous Historic District

I know you can't hear the sarcasm, but it's definitely there. So here's what went on in our historic district yesterday.

This was one of the oldest houses in town. I went into it a few weeks ago. I was surprised that the interior condition wasn't nearly as bad was the exterior would indicate.

And here it is today.

Great huh?

I can hear the house next door to it coming down right now. This one was my favorite.

I loved this house. It was a good house. The whole thing-floors, walls, and ceilings were made of solid tongue and groove old growth pine. It needed a heavy handed cleaning and some TLC and it would have outlasted the newest of new houses that are being built today. We made a cash offer on it last year, but decided we should wait to see what my job was going to do before counter-offering. It's a good thing that we held onto the cash, but I really wish we would have looked into a small loan for the place. Donnie wanted the house that went down yesterday. We could have bought them both for less than the cost of a small economy car. I am just kicking myself for not pursuing it.

Both of these houses are on the street behind us and are part of our back yard view. In their place, I have been told there will be 2 $400,000 houses going up. When I asked whether these houses would be new modern looking houses or whether they would be houses in a style that would blend in with the other houses in the historic district, I was told they would be new modern styled houses. Great. I was also told that "it's a small town" which in English means that if someone has the money to build a bunch of ridiculous houses right smack in the middle of the historic district to use for the purposes of housing severely mentally retarded residents in a multi-unit situation, then so be it. If I remember right, the council voted to have no more multi-unit buildings allowed in the historic district. Um, hello?

So, the neighbor behind us was venting her frustration when we first got wind of what was going to become of the properties. She's very annoyed that there will be two houses of minimally supervised government funded severely retarded people living 2 doors down from her. There are already a few crazy people that live close by and they have been known to come into people's houses and just wander around. This is not the kind of thing an already declining neighborhood needs. The mayor's response was that the $400,000 houses will increase the value of her property. Well, maybe that would be so, but how desirable is it to live 2 doors down from a nut house?

To top all that off, the house across the street from the same neighbor burned down several months ago. The property has sold. Come to find out there will be multi-unit apartments on that lot. Ok, let's see. She has two nuthouses two doors down and an apartment complex going in across the street. One block from her house is one of the 5 government subsidized housing complexes (aka: the projects). Tell me again how the value of her property is going to go up with all these government and commercial buildings going up within spitting distance of her house? And she lives directly behind us, so it isn't going to help things at our place either. Course, we live next door to a funeral home, so it may not matter in the long run. There are plenty of vacant and abandoned properties that are not salvageable and vacant land around town that isn't in the historic district. I want to know why they didn't pursue some of those avenues. Why did they have to take the things that could be saved???

What really gripes my ass is that they are able to make all these accommodations for the deterioration of the historic district, but when I wanted to put the fabulous mailbox outside our fence next to the side walk it wasn't permitted because "it's in the historic district."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against the mentally challenged having nice places to live, that's not my complaint, but I really wish they wouldn't have destroyed part of the historic district to do it. And yes, while I realize that the average purchaser of a property gets to decide how they want to use it, I don't think the city should have allowed either the new homes or the apartment complex to operate in the historic district. Especially since the one thing that Trenton likes to boast about is the historic district. Interesting isn't it? I've decided their "historic district" is comprised of the 7 houses they deem beautiful-ours being one of them. Everything else is just old worthless crap.

I happened to be in the Mayor's office today and asked if he had learned the status of the Neil House that I posted a few weeks ago. Apparently, they're still waiting for the judge to decide. He heard there was some discussion about selling off the parts of the house for the money. Then of course, they'll build yet another parking lot. From a historical perspective, that house has more known history and is part of the story of the town's Civil War battle (which is a big deal around here) probably more than any other house in town. If they choose a parking lot over a house that could be fabulous and with history to boot, I'm going to be beyond disgusted. The thing that kills me about the Neil House is that the church that owns it says they are growing. When I asked about that growth, it's young people. Young people that are going to be leaving town to go to college. Young people that will be moving away when they graduate because we don't have any jobs here for them. Does it not occur to anyone else that as soon as these kids get their licenses they're going to hit the road and never look back? They're not going to need a parking spot.

So, back to the "historic district." Every year the owners of those 7 houses are approached to be in the Chamber of Commerce Historic Homes Tour with a target participation of 5. We've been in all of them and a couple more. But here's the deal. If one more salvageable old house goes down for some stupid or greedy reason and the city is involved in the decision, our house will never be on another fund-raising tour again nor can they use any photos on the city's promotional website. If they can't be sympathetic to the things that are important to us, I can't be bothered with being sympathetic to their need to make money from our hard work. Our friends on the next street over have decided this as well. Selfish? Hell yeah. But from what I hear, our house is what draws a good bit of the crowd. Wonder how ticket sales will go if we both decline? I know it's petty, but that 's my private protest.


  1. That is absolutely awful! Once these great old houses are gone, there's no getting them back! Sickening, especially when they had those other available options. Great idea to "boycott" the city's promotional use of your home -- if they're not going to actually take pride in the history of the area, you have no obligation to help them pretend they care.

  2. Yes, it's ridiculous. They love to talk about the historic district and promoting tourism and all that, but they don't do anything to try to keep it intact. That first old house was never for sale and the next thing you know, they're bulldozing it. If we'd have known what was going to happen to them, we'd have found a way to acquire them both. Now that they're gone though, you should see the progress they're making over there. I'll post it later.

    Good to "see" you!

  3. Hi Christie - I've been gone awhile and wanted to see what's happening with you and Donnie's Pecan Place. So sorry to hear about the destruction of your historic district. Couple of thoughts: If this is a for real - registered, acknowledged by an ordinance describing the individual properties or blocks designated as 'HISTORICAL DISTRICT' then there has to be a procedure in which any demo's have to go thru to be approved for demo. This is done by a 'HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION' appt'd by the town council. If that's not in place - calling your neighborhood a 'HISTORIC DISTRICT' is really not meaningful. Only if there's a procedure in place to protect and defend historic properties does it merit a 'HISTORIC DISTRICT' title. Now - if you have this - and the town council is ignoring the HDC's votes (which in Michigan are only refutable by the state historic district commission - not the town council) then it's time to either get one going - or run for office.

    I appreciate your definance at not being on the tour and to limit/eliminate the Pecan Place from being front and center on ads for the town - but in the long run - only good decision makers will make any difference. It seems you have people that are either short sighted/ignorant/on the take/functionin illegally by ignoring ordinance/local law. It's a big step to run for office and being in office can be a total PITA - but - BUT BUT you can make a difference and it can be so rewarding. I ran for office in 1992 - still am in office - and I can tell you - I've made changes - I've improved my community and even if I'm not re-elected again in 2012 - I'll know that in my 20 yrs - I've charted a good course for my town. Think about it. From what I can tell you're terribly busy - but terribly good at anything you put your hand to. Sitting out a tour might make you feel better - but it won't stop the demolition of your town - and the devaluation of your property - and your neighbor's properties by this reckless town council. Rise up baby!

    End of speech :)

  4. Hey Melissa! I was wondering where you'd been. I was just asking Donnie the other day where you were. Hope all is well!

    Yes, we have a properly designated historic district that was created in the early 80s. One of the ladies that did the research on all the houses was kind enough to share 6 years of her life with me so I could scan all of her paperwork on the properties. We do not have a Historic District Commission however and when it was mentioned, no one wanted to be told what they could do with their homes since this is a small community with limited resources. So there is probably little-or more likely, no-support from the owners of the houses and the town council is made up of people who would rather see them gone and a new one in its place. New means the illusion of progress around here and it's the illusion of progress and desirability that they are trying to convey to potential industrial visitors that can provide jobs. So, yes we have a proper historic district, but no the designation doesn't matter whatsoever and the reason I've been given is that 'It's a small town.'

    Now about running for office...actually, I had considered running for alderman next term, but after living here only 3 years, I see that there would be no point. This small town doesn't care about anything except being seen in church and football. The historic district is neither of those things. Besides, I was told that if I wanted to get anywhere-meaning an elected official or to get any kind of government job, I would have to be a member of one of the churches and that's not a game I'm willing to play-not for that reason anyway. And yes we have an abundance of the people you so accurately described. When they all die, maybe the historic district will have a chance-IF there's anything left.

    The mayor has a section in the paper every couple of weeks. He always ends it with "Trenton is a great place to live." I used to think so, but now every time I see the phrase I think "USED to be a great place to live!" I realize that it's not his fault as the town is governed by the council and not the mayor, but it only took 3 years to become disenchanted. Wonder what that says about this place? I decided that for my own sanity to let 'em reap what they sew. It's their own history they're willingly destroying.

    Thanks for the advice though. If I don't get a job around here soon, we may be relocating to parts unknown and perhaps the people there won't be so stubbornly narrow-minded.