Local News

Protesters Fight to Protect Remnants of Latta House

Posted January 11, 2007 12:26 p.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2007 6:25 p.m. EST

— A fire destroyed the historic Latta House Monday. Now, there is controversy over what to do with it. The property owner wants to tear it down, but others disagree.

The manager of the property and protesters came face-to-face Thursday in a fight to preserve what's left of the historic site.

"There are about 3,000 bricks left of the foundation, handmade bricks left from the school 100 years ago, and we want to salvage those bricks," said Bill Shepherd, caretaker of the Latta House. "If we don't stop them from taking them away, they'll be lost forever."

The Latta house was named for a former slave who ran a school at the site off Oberlin Road for poor black students in the early 1900s. It was destroyed by fire Monday, and the property manager wants to clear away the debris.

"I would be more than happy to get this brick from the foundation out for you and lay it aside," demolition supervisor Cecil Holcombe said. "He (Shepherd) is just trying to make a big scene."

Raleigh police were called in to settle the dispute. The construction crew was allowed to clear the debris, but for those attached to the property and the history, the compromise is of little comfort.

"I hope they take care to save some stuff. It doesn't feel good to see it carted away," Shepherd said. "If it was downtown Raleigh, we would have had people rallying around and supporting us and saving these artifacts from this important site.

"Instead, there's a bunch of police cars and people ordering me out of the way."

The property manager told WRAL he is going to turn the site into an open space and make it a memorial to the founder of the Latta House. As for the bricks, those who want them have until the end of the month to collect them.