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County likely to raze two historic homes on old Byron site

Commissioners also to fund study of road project near GM plant

Thursday, November 1, 2012 - 6:45 am

The Allen County Commissioners on Friday are expected to continue efforts to prepare the site of the long-closed Byron Sanitarium for a possible sale – efforts that will include the demolition of two historic but vacant and dilapidated homes.

But the Commissioners will also consider beginning a long-discussed road project supporters say could spur economic growth in southwest Allen County.

The two homes were designed in the 1930s by noted local architect Charles Weatherhogg and were occupied by Byron executives and employees during the operation of the tuberculosis treatment facility on Lima Road which opened in 1919 and closed in 1976.

Most of the sanitarium has since been razed, but former Commissioner Marla Irving tried to convince County Council to repair the Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival-style houses for $250,000 in 2002. That effort failed, and the county in 2009 offered to give the two homes away to anyone willing to move them. There were no takers.

Weatherhogg designed several prominent buildings in Fort Wayne, including North Side and Central high schools, the Masonic Temple and the Anthony and Keenan hotels. The homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places but are now in severe disrepair, so they and a newer house on the site will apparently be torn down at a cost of about $37,000.

The Commissioners Friday are also expected to approve a $94,000 contract with the GAI consulting firm, which will survey the 120-acre Byron site's boundary, map the cemetery that contains the unmarked graves if about 40 people and perform other services to prepare the land for future sale or development.

Far to the south, meanwhile, the Commissioners will also consider pledging $50,000 toward an engineering and environmental survey that could lead to the widening of Lafayette Center Road from Interstate 69 near the General Motors plant southwest to Roanoke. Huntington County would also pay $50,000 toward the study.

The project has been discussed since the GM plant opened in the mid-'80s and was proposed again by the Hoosier Heartland Corridor Task Force in 2010, when its cost was estimated at $66 million. The Regional Chamber of Commerce of Northeast Indiana endorsed the project early this year, calling the four-mile project its top infrastructure priority because of its proximity to GM, Vera Bradley, Fort Wayne International Airport and other features that could attract more jobs to the corridor.

No construction funds have yet been awarded to the project, however.