Let Us Save Spaight Street House In Madison From A Bulldozer!

There is a move underway to tear down and totally destroy an old home located at 1112 Spaight Street.  After the old structure is gone a young couple wants to build a new home on that spot that looks across to Orton Park.

This house is believed to have been built in 1889 or a few years earlier, making it the second oldest frame house on Orton Park, and the third oldest house on the park.

Let me state up front that I have nothing against the young couple that are expecting their first child, and want to tear this house down.  Having dreams about home ownership is one of those grand American notions that all have experienced at one time or another.  I would very much like this couple to reside in our neighborhood, and be a part of our community. I met and talked with them several weeks back, and find them very courteous.

But as nice as this couple are I am not in favor of having an old home destroyed so a new one can be built.

Not in this neighborhood where old homes tell a story, point us back to our roots, and encourage us to do right by them so others can enjoy them, as we do, for many decades to come.

If every time someone who had a desire to tear down a house and build a new one had achieved their aim over the years, this neighborhood consisting of old Victorian homes, and historic buildings of the past would be all gone by now.  There would be no more charm left to the neighborhood. 

It is imperative that we all gather as a community and stop the destruction of this home.

The Marquette Neighborhood Association took the first step in standing up to the bulldozing of this home.

After a lengthy discussion in August the approval of the demolition permit for 1112 Spaight Street was turned down following a tie of four to four, and President Scott Thornton, the President of the Board, broke the tie and the motion failed.

One can make an argument that the property was not listed in a fashion that would allow for a true sampling of home buyers to express an interest in the home.  There were reports of someone else interested in making an offer on the property. This should be known, but it was information that was obscured by the proponents argument that no one wanted the property after a year on the market.  That was not quite true, since it wasn’t listed, and the phone number on the for sale (by the owner) sign was illegible.

All these old wonderful homes tell a story.

The one at 1112 Spaight Street has a rich one too.

The family who lived in it from the time it was built, and for about the next 20 years, was the Christian C. Koffshinsky family.  He, or a son of the same name, built another house on Maple Avenue around 1910, presumably after the family size changed. Some family members lived nearby concurrently and during subsequent generations.

I, along with many from this neighborhood, walked through the house.  Let me report what the facts of the house are, and a bit more about it’s past.

It is structurally sound except for the porches.

The interior floor plan is a side entrance T-shaped floor plan. It is nearly original in layout, and could be adapted to modern use. It had a front entrance to the front parlor, likely for visitors, and a secondary entrance to the “family parlor”. Both front and side door are original and have deep moldings. It has an enclosed stair entered from the front. It originally had three bedrooms, though two were combined at some point.

It was originally heated with coal stoves so had no fireplaces. It has a stone foundation wall, and because it sits low on the lot… and its basement floor accommodates drainage. The basement has a walk-out entrance to a half flight of steps to the back yard. The interior trims are all original or early, but the paint and plaster finishes are in need of replacement. The newer kitchen within the original rear one-story kitchen wing is outdated and in need of replacement.

The second floor bath is outdated and similarly needs to be replaced. The exterior is covered with clay “slate shingles” that cover lapped wood siding. Though the bottom of the posts and deck of the front porch are deteriorated and sunken several inches, the original decorative spindle frieze is relatively intact.

There is a second house on the property though it hasn’t been habitable for some time. It is the small one-room house at the rear of the lot, which appears to have been moved from 1118 Spaight(?). That structure at 1118 Spaight has the remains of its early 1890s interior finishes, but may have been a larger or different sized house at one time.

The point I am making with this information is that the history and background of this house can be told much like if your grandfather were to tell you of his grandparents.  The past makes us richer when we know of it, and appreciate its worth.   We do not discard important things just because they get old, and seek new replacements. 

In this neighborhood we embrace the past, and refurbish it.  We live in harmony with the rich history of this neighborhood.

How many other places in this city have carriage stoops along the curb?  Recall how we worked to save them from destruction when the street project was underway?  Think about the loss of something most remarkable had we not acted in time?

This is not just another Madison neighborhood.

There is history worth protecting here, and homes worth fighting for.

Will you join me in making this home something that will be around for many more decades?

Thank you, on behalf of the house at 1112 Spaight Street.

13 thoughts on “Let Us Save Spaight Street House In Madison From A Bulldozer!

  1. Solly

    I agree that saving old buildings is a worthy endeavor. I would suggest that if “the neighborhood” wants to save “this old house” they propose a special taxing district to buy it and rehab it, and then perhaps turn it over to transitional housing. If there isn’t time for that, each property owner in “the neighborhood” could take out a loan of 1 or $2,000 and pool it and buy the house, of course making it worthwhile for the present owners for their trouble and costs, and a “historic” house will not doubt be worth much more than they paid for it. Kinda like when you buy a painting for $5 at a rummage sale, and then you take it to Antiques Roadshow and find out it’s worth $20,000. Certainly that owner wouldn’t be expected to sell it for $6 because they got a deal. There is something quintessentially Madison about feeling empowered to tell others what they can do with property that they paid for, and are paying taxes on. And last I heard, there is no requirement that sellers put a public notice out that they have an offer on a house, in case others are interested in purchasing it. This post makes it sound like there was something nefarious that had gone on. It was irrelevant to the permit discussion. If the house had been for sale for a year, anyone had a chance at it.

  2. Historic neighborhoods require that people care about them. The very fact that this neighborhhood exists as it does shows that my mindset is not new. There clearly were others that also thought as I do about protecting these homes. I think many will agree with my views who live here and are concerned about this neighborhood. I accept and applaud the restrictions on all sorts of things in this neighborhood when it comes to buidling or remodeling. There are higher purposes than the whim of the moment.

  3. LC

    Let us save at least a tiny sliver of possibility for someone like me to own a home on Orton Park. There are exactly two houses in the four blocks surrounding this park which are assessed under $347,000

  4. LC,

    Agreed. This is a very expensive area to buy a home in, and property taxes on a neighborhood home near me is near $20,000. This is one of the most amazing areas in the nation for these old homes, and as we know from walking the area it is charming, peaceful, and beautiful to look at with our large trees that tower and history that is everywhere. Thanks for your comment.

  5. LeeH

    Have you actually been in this house? You paint a fuzzy happy feeling nostalgic picture of it but honestly the place is a wreck. We live next door and while I am very much in favor of neighborhood preservation, the owners of this home have let it fall into a state of severe disrepair. It is NOT structurally sound, it has been long ago gutted of any historic charm and the basement does not “accommodate drainage” it floods with putrid water. The shingles contain asbestos and the electricity is a violation of code. While I truly love and respect my historic neighborhood I see nothing gained by gutting it to a shell vs tearing it down. Personally I would most prefer that the hose be torn down and another historic Madison home in need of a new location such as the Bethel Parrish Shop be moved to the lot. Sentiment is a lovely thing, but in this case it is just not sensible.

  6. TN

    I have walked through this house. It is not structurally sound. The basement walls are crumbling, with holes that rats have come through. There are soft spots in the floor throughout the house. There is nothing historically or architecturally interesting about the building. It doesn’t come up to the caliber of any of the other houses nearby. I’m all for preserving our history, when it is worth preserving. I don’t see anything redeeming about this property, other than the decorative spindle frieze on the porch. It would better serve the neighborhood if it was torn down and a building that was similar to the architecture of the neighborhood was built in its stead. Or an historic building that is in need of a home moved there. Either of these options would improve the tax base of the neighborhood.

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