The local development group that recently acquired the Crawford Home, an architecturally significant Mid Century Modern house on Country Club Drive in the Westdale neighborhood, has applied for a demolition permit with the city, confirming local preservationists’ fears that the new owners have no intention of maintaining and restoring the 62-year-old home.
But until the permit is granted, which could be days or weeks, efforts are underway to try to save the house. Neighborhood residents have flooded the city permits office with calls and emails, registering concerns that razing the house could cause environmental problems related to asbestos. At the very least, the concerns could delay the granting of the demolition permit, Director of Development Carey Chauvin says.
Perhaps more significantly, Preserve Louisiana, the statewide preservation group, has found an investor willing to buy the home from the development group, Magnolia Construction. Magnolia Construction paid $800,000 for the home in mid-March and has said it cannot afford to restore the property.
An attorney for Preserve Louisiana, John Schneider, emailed the group’s three principals earlier today and requested a meeting for Thursday so the buyers can meet the group and make their offer. But, as of press time, Schneider hadn’t heard back.
Meanwhile, nearly 4,000 people have signed an online petition to try to save the home by asking the city’s Historic Preservation Commission to hold an emergency meeting and begin the process of declaring the home a local historic landmark. But City Planning Director Frank Duke, whose agency oversees the HPC, says there is no legal means by which he can simply call an emergency meeting of the HPC.
Declaring the home a historic landmark is a lengthy process that takes months, he says, and should have been done before the home was sold to a group that wants to raze it, not after.
The home is architecturally and historically significant both because of the famous architect who designed it, Wahl Schneider, and the famous one who lived there, Hamilton Crawford.
Earlier this spring, the home’s longtime owners sold it to developer Jason Laubscher and his wife Whitney, after Laubscher told them it was his lifelong dream to live in the house and raise his family there.
Moments after the sale closed, however, the Laubschers sold the house to his development company. For weeks, rumors circulated on social media that the group planned to tear down the house and subdivide the lot into four parcels, though one of the company principals, James Seymour, told Daily Report earlier this month, the group didn’t know what it was going to do with the home.
Monday’s permit request seems to settle the issue. Magnolia Construction didn’t return a call seeking comment.
While Duke says all hope is not lost yet for preservations, it doesn’t look good.
“Something could have been done if the prior owners had done something but once the property has been sold to a development company it is going to be virtually impossible to save the structure.” he says. “If you’re going to be effective with historic preservation you have got to be proactive, not reactive.”
To read a related column on the fate of the Crawford House, click here.