Demolition planned for historic Fairfield-Nestel house Its rehabilitation has become too costly to pursue, one city official said.
The historic Fairfield-Nestel House seems to have been like the proverbial cat with nine lives, sinking to the brink of demolition several times, only to be saved with new hope for restoration. This time, the home’s luck appears to have run out.
The city of Fort Wayne was scheduled to open bids Tuesday for demolition of four structures, including the Fairfield-Nestel House at 815 W. Creighton Ave. One of the other properties, however, reportedly won a last-minute reprieve.
Demolition of the properties could begin in about 30 days, said Mary Tyndall, public information officer for the city’s Community Development department.
“At this point, I think we are resigned to the fact rehabilitation is just not in the cards for this house,” Jill McDevitt, executive director of local historic preservation organization ARCH, said about the Fairfield-Nestel House.
The home, which was built about 1868 and is its own historic district, is sound structurally, McDevitt said. But making it livable again would take a lot of work and a lot of money that the homeowner probably never will get back.
Much of the home’s original interior is gone, she said, and current owner Ben Roney isn’t interested in sinking any more money into it.
The interior losses include the main stairway to the second floor, which rotted away after years of water damage, a historic preservation review of the house said. A third-floor tower had been removed previously.
ARCH thought Roney, who has a good track record with rehabilitating historic homes, may be able to save the house, McDevitt said. But if he couldn’t do it, it’s unlikely ARCH will find anyone else who could.
The house gets its name from the famous people who lived there previously.
The house first served as the homestead of city leader Asa Fairfield’s 240-acre farm south of Fort Wayne, The News-Sentinel reported previously. Fairfield worked as captain of the Indiana, which in 1835 became the first canal boat to operate on the Wabash & Erie Canal at Fort Wayne.
Later, Fort Wayne businessman Daniel Nestel bought the house, which became home for him and his wife’s children Charles and Eliza, who grew into adults standing only 3 1/2 feet tall, The News-Sentinel reported previously. Charles and Eliza, who reportedly were talented actors, singers and dancers, went on to tour America and the world as the stage performers Commodore Foote and the Fairy Queen.
In the late 1990s, the city’s Neighborhood Code Enforcement reported ongoing property maintenance problems at the house, which resulted in it being placed in 1998 on the demolition list for the first time, the historic preservation review said. New owners acquired the property and saved it from destruction with help from ARCH.
The house landed back on the demolition schedule in 2005, but removal of the house was delayed by a change of home ownership, the historic preservation review said. The house changed owners again in 2011, 2013 and 2016. One owner won a court order in January 2016 to block demolition temporarily, an action that took place before Roney bought the home. <br>
<center> Story of another house </center><br>
Court action reportedly has given a temporary reprieve to another home on the city’s current demolition list.
The house at 1325 S. Anthony Blvd. is owned by the nonprofit group People of Conviction, which used it for its Mozella’s House program, the first transitional home in Indiana for female U.S. military veterans, said the Rev. Saharra Bledsoe, program founder.
The program opened in 2005 in the house and operated there actively until 2014, when her fiance was killed in an accident, Bledsoe said. She now plans to reopen Mozella’s House.
But the city’s Neighborhood Code Enforcement department told her there had been problems dating to 2014. Bledsoe said she didn’t get the initial notice from Neighborhood Code, and contractors she hired later to do the work didn’t complete it. She discovered the problem in May 2016, and said city officials seemingly have tried to block her efforts to repair the home.
Problems needing repair include the north basement wall of the house, which has collapsed.
Bledsoe, who said she also received help from U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office, filed an appeal in court. The judge reportedly issued an order Friday blocking demolition and giving her 30 days to file her arguments in the case, she said.
She now plans to work with a contractor to make the needed repairs, she said.