How to Save an Endangered Old House
The people of Ripley, Ohio, figured out a way—and you can too
Victor and Cindy Young did a bang-up job bringing this timeworn Italianate back to life. But the people of Ripley, Ohio, deserve a pat on the back for saving it in the first place. Front row, left to right: Terry Newdow, Donna Covert, Vic Young, Jean White, Alison GIbson, Hylda Strange. Second row, left to right: Mark Newdow, Tom White, Don Zipperian, June Zipperian, Karen White. Third row, left to right:
Jerry Strange, Phil White.
Feeling inspired? If you want to save an old house but don't have the time or money to do it yourself, here are three alternatives.
Form an LLC
Before they found it, Vic and Cindy Young's house was marked for demolition by the Ripley town council. In response, resident Phil White asked for a 30-day reprieve, then recruited 10 of his friends and neighbors to form a limited liability company, or LLC. This allowed them to pool their money and purchase the house from a local landlord, perform the necessary repairs, then sell it to the Youngs. LLC members are only liable for the amount of money invested in the business. So if someone were injured while replacing the roof, Phil and his crew could be sued only for the amount they paid for the property. Forming an LLC is relatively easy. Just file the formal paperwork (the fee is $100 to $800, depending on where you live), create an operating agreement establishing each member's rights and responsibilities, and obtain any required licenses and permits.
Hit the Library
Some local research or a chat with the town historian might reveal why a house threatened with demolition is worth saving. Maybe it was home to a notable resident or part of the Underground Railroad. If so, you'll have a strong case to present to the community and local planning commission as to why the house should be spared. Contact the local press if you find anything interesting. An article might build more community support.
It's hard to save an endangered property all by yourself, so finding allies is important. The best ones to seek out are members of historic preservation agencies, which can contribute their experience and resources. But there are other parties who might be interested in your cause. For example, if the demolition of a house involves redevelopment that might have an impact on environmentally sensitive areas, get an environmental nonprofit involved. If it affects car or foot access to local businesses, ask the chamber of commerce for support. And if there's a threat it will hinder parking or the quality of life in a particular area, a local neighborhood group might want to jump on board.
Want to see photos from this group's restoration? Click here to read Saved! Italianate Before and After