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Durham neighborhood works to save dilapidated house from wrecking ball

Posted December 16, 2015
Updated December 17, 2015

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— A decrepit, century-old house in the Old North Durham neighborhood was slated for demolition this week, but nearby residents have banded together to save and restore it.

Owner Stuart Cullinan said he bought the property at 204 E. Trinity Ave. with plans to renovate it himself, but he said it was too far gone.

"It became clear that this house couldn't be saved for various reasons," Cullinan said Wednesday. "It had suffered a substantial fire. The roof was damaged. It's my opinion that saving it is not a scenario that I can make work."

So, he decided to tear it down and build another house on the property, which is at the intersection of East Trinity and North Roxboro streets.

When neighbors learned the house was going to come down on Monday, they quickly moved to stop it. Three residents offered to buy the property from Cullinan.

"There's almost no house that's so far gone you can't save it," said John Martin, one of the prospective buyers, who has renovated seven or eight historic homes. "It's the question of, are you satisfied if you just make a little bit of money or even break even or lose $1,000? I can live with that."

Preservation Durham Executive Director Benjamin Filippo said many historic homes have been torn down over the years after succumbing to neglect from landlords. Preserving those that remain is important for the community, he said.

"What we will inevitably see is people tearing down and demolishing these homes and building high-end properties that will cost out people," Filippo said.

Cullinan said he plans to sit down after Christmas with the residents who submitted the offer to buy the home. Until everything is sorted, the demolition is on hold.


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  • Roy Hinkley Dec 17, 2015
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    Yeesh, the neighbors are offering to buy the house.

  • Lovey Howell Dec 17, 2015
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    Preservation of Durham and the pitchfork bearing neighbors should band together, pass the hat and purchase the house from Mr. Cullinan. Did the neighbors have a contract with Mr. Cullinan? Harrrumpph! Doubtful! What about the City of Durham, where are the building inspectors, would they allow anyone to live in that house? Did the City of Durham issue a demolition permit? Of course! Tear it down, its beyond saving. Seriously, take a long hard look at that piece of junk they think someone else should fix, What a joke.

  • Sonja Yagel Dec 16, 2015
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    Some beautiful old homes on Dillard St. were torn down, beautiful antebellum homes built a century ago. I remember as a kid driving past these old homes and comparing them to the plantations in the movie "Gone with the Wind". I wished they could have been saved.

  • Craig Elliott Dec 16, 2015
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    "What we will inevitably see is people tearing down and demolishing these homes and building high-end properties that will cost out people," Filippo said." (Preservation Durham Executive Director Benjamin Filippo)

    OK, to me this statement isn't about preservation of historic buildings as much as stopping gentrification.

    We want to preserve our history, but we also need to protect the rights of the property owner.

  • Jack Lamb Dec 16, 2015
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    So why did the "neighbors" not buy the property earlier?
    Looking at the picture, I would have torn it down the day after I bought it.