A historic house that served as the original St. Barnabas Episcopal Church parsonage is free for the taking.
But the story behind the large and complex gift is even larger: It’s a question of when and whether the City of DeLand should require that an old structure be preserved rather than torn down.
At the behest of the DeLand Historic Preservation Board — whose members don’t want to see the house demolished — church officials announced they will give the bungalow at 342 N. Clara Ave. to anyone willing to remove it.
“Anyone interested in taking ownership and relocating this structure must do so at their sole expense and secure any and all permits necessary to achieve this undertaking,” church facilities manager Patrick Sills wrote.
“Undertaking” might be an understatement, according to St. Barnabas Rector the Rev. Brian Garrison and DeLand architect Jack Carter.
The two men, on the church’s behalf, asked the Historic Preservation Board to allow demolition of the bungalow, which sits on land just east of the school playground, which the church wants to expand. The board, instead of voting on the demolition, asked the church to try first to give the house away.
Carter is conducting an assessment of other church and school buildings on the property, as St. Barnabas prepares to complete a master plan of its complex for future expansion.
He said the two-story, balloon-frame wood home is structurally compromised and termite-infested, despite regular pest-control service.
Also, he said, there’s likely lead paint in the interior, asbestos in the plaster, and mold in cavities behind the walls from long-leaking windows.
“I think it’s going to make it more complicated to move the building,” he said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the only way to remove the mold is to remove the asbestos plaster, he added.
“Asbestos is dangerous when it becomes friable,” Carter said.
“Friable” refers to the possibility of releasing asbestos particles into the air when a substance, like the plaster, is broken apart.
Carter, whose great-uncle James Winfrey Perkins was DeLand’s mayor in 1899, has no problem with historic preservation. He supports it.
“I’m in the process of contacting people who move old buildings to get an accurate price to report to the Historic Preservation Board,” he told The Beacon May 8. “Several different people are working to try to move that house.”
In the past, he’s been told the cost of moving such a structure is at least $50,000, he said.
Carter wants to make sure anyone who takes the house knows what they’re getting into.
“If someone has that kind of passion and love for a historic structure, then more power to them, but they should know,” he said.
Professionally, and as a church representative, Carter said he feels a strong sense of duty to disclose the building’s environmental and structural shortcomings.
Another problem, he said, is the building’s foundation of old Lake Helen sand bricks.
Cracks at the bottom and top of the stairs on the south side, and in the walls upstairs on the north side, indicate the potential for complete collapse, he noted.
“Pressure on the bricks — known to fail over long periods of time, under load — put pressure on the mortar, which is falling apart, and the bricks are falling apart,” Carter said.
Also, cracks on either side of a beam behind the ceiling indicate “the structure is subtly collapsing,” Carter continued.
In addition to those problems, he said, the house is not compliant with requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Bringing it up to ADA standards would include gutting and replacing the bathrooms, expanding doorways, replacing the staircase and adding an elevator or wheelchair lift.
“This is why we’re asking the house be allowed to be demolished,” Carter said.
St. Barnabas officials have not turned a blind eye to the old rectory.
“They had a new roof put on two years ago,” he said. “It’s had regular pest-control service and regular cleaning. They’ve done a remarkable job trying to preserve that building.”
Carter estimates rehabilitating the building would cost three to five times what it would cost to build a new structure.
“We’re not trying to hold back,” he said. “But for a church you’ve got to be a good steward of the church’s resources, and you also have to be a good steward to the community. Why would a church give away a building knowing it has mold, termites, lead and asbestos without advising so?”
At its meeting May 3, the Historic Preservation Board voted unanimously to table a vote on demolition until the June meeting, giving St. Barnabas time to advertise the home to anyone willing to relocate it.
If an individual agrees, before the June meeting, to move the home under terms and a timeline acceptable to the church, the application to demolish the structure would become unnecessary, Historic Preservation Board Chairman Solomon Greene explained in an email.
“I do not speak for other members of the HPB, but it is my hope that a workable solution can be reached between St. Barnabas and a third party to preserve the structure, while at the same time accommodating the practical needs of an operating school,” Greene wrote.
While he appreciates the impracticalities of a modern enterprise trying to use a circa-1920 building, Greene said, he can’t ignore the home’s historic value.
He said the St. Barnabas staff members with whom he has spoken are open to the plan.
“As a pillar of the DeLand community with ties even older than the age of this structure, I believe St. Barnabas will cooperate in good faith in the relocation of this structure off-site, if a willing party comes forward,” Greene said. “If the relocation is successful, it is my personal hope that this ‘relocate instead of demolish’ model will be utilized in future instances to avoid the necessity for demolishing other historic structures in DeLand.”