YSU targets historic places

Razing of Thompson, Peck houses planned

By Denise Dick



Youngstown State University plans to demolish a historic home and is considering demolition of a second one.

The trustees’ finance and facilities committee at a meeting Thursday voted to demolish the Thompson/Sacherman House.

Gene Grilli, vice president of finance and administration, told committee members that his office, with concurrence from the office of the provost, recommends demolishing both the Thompson/Sacherman House and the Peck House.

With difficult economics and the deteriorated state of both buildings, it’s in the university’s best interests to demolish them, he said.

Trustee Harry Meshel said he’d like the board to wait and decide later on the Peck House.

“It’s on Wick Avenue, and it’s a [Charles H.] Owsley House,” he said, referring to the Youngstown architect who designed it.

People have approached him with their hopes that the house can be saved, Meshel said.

Thompson/Sacherman is a 2,300-square-foot, single-family home on Lincoln Avenue. It was built in 1882 by Rufus F. Thompson and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Documentation provided to the committee says that it is one of seven buildings identified in 2006 by CityScape’s Historic Preservation Committee as endangered buildings of significance downtown.

H. William Lawson, Mahoning Valley Historical Society executive director, said the society doesn’t now have a position on the houses.

“But we are very interested in the historic resources that are here in the Wick Avenue downtown area,” he said.

The house was moved when YSU built the Beeghly College of Education and sits between Inner Circle and the Beat coffeehouse.

“We’ll be discussing what this means in terms of the neighborhood,” Lawson said.

An evaluation of Thompson/Sacherman determined that the exterior showed signs of deferred maintenance including peeling paint, rot, vegetation and algae growth and many missing pieces of original building fabric. It also found severe water damage, mold and rot because of the poor condition of the roof and the absence of gutters.

There was consideration of using the building as a crime-scene laboratory for the criminal-justice department, but the work involved to renovate and repurpose it totaled about $200,000 and could rise to $400,000, the documents said.

The finance and administration office “notes that the property is well-documented and recommends that documents pertaining to the building and its history be transferred to the University Archives,” the documents said. “It further recommends that the remaining interior historic elements be selectively removed and responsibly salvaged.”

The cleared site would be used for open space of a community garden.

The Peck House is a 7,660-square-foot, single-family home in the Wick Avenue Historic District and was built in 1887 for Dr. George and Emeline Peck. It’s one of six mansions remaining on Wick.

The property was acquired from the Mahoning Valley Council of Churches in the mid-1990s for use by the Center for Historic Preservation.

An evaluation of that building found that the exterior retains its historic integrity and “is in generally good condition,” documents provided to the committee say.

The interior of the house has been altered from its original layout.

The estimated cost to renovate the house is about $600,000. The university examined possible uses including for WYSU or costume and prop storage for the department of theater and dance, but neither of those uses was deemed suitable.

“The office of finance and administration has determined that, notwithstanding the desirability of maintaining one of the six remaining Wick Avenue mansions, the expenditure of capital funds in excess of $600,000 without a university reuse now or in the foreseeable future, is not a prudent use of these scarce resources,” the information provided to the committee said.

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