Neighbors attempt to save 100-year-old house

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- There's a battle between old and new in one D.C. neighborhood. A 100-year-old house recently purchased in the Chevy Chase neighborhood could soon be history.

The house, built in 1914, sits on the 3800 block of Morrison Street NW in a neighborhood that was established in 1907.

But after years of neglect, the house is now a shell of what it once was and, according to some, what it still could be. Look no further than its twin sister, right next door.

"Look, that house just next door was not in very good condition a few years ago and now, it's a gem," said Ruth Olman, pointing to the house next door. "It's truly beautiful."

Olman has lived in the neighborhood since the 1960s.

In November, the home was purchased by a known developer who filed for and received a raze permit from the District to tear it down and build a 5,500 square foot house in place of the existing 3,000 square foot house.

The new owner of the property did not respond to our requests for an interview. WUSA9 will continue to reach out to him.

It would not be the first home in the Chevy Chase neighborhood he has re-developed. But this time, nearly 140 neighbors have responded by signing a petition hoping to convince the new owner to restore the house or sell it to someone who will.

Neighbors might form an LLC to buy the house, restore it and then put it back on the market. They tell me that they've assure the owner he would get his money back and then some -- they say he would actually profit from the re-sale. But, right now, it looks like the house is on track to be history.

"Sure, it looks bad. We all look bad when we get older. He just doesn't understand what it actually means to the neighborhood," said Stephen Ortado, an architectural conservation and preservation specialist who has spent nearly 30 years renovating properties throughout the District.

The DC Historic Preservation Office says they are losing more and more older homes in the District to re-developed, and with that loss comes the loss of a neighborhood's character.

The counter argument is that with new development comes progress, new life and energy in these neighborhoods, and, if nothing else, a property owner can do whatever he or she wants with their property, regardless of how popular the move is or is not with neighbors.

There are currently no historic designations to the neighborhood and subsequently the house which means it is not protected from redevelopment.

"Many of use come and live in a neighborhood such as this is because there's a harmony to the houses around," said Mark Dorfman, who lives just up the street from the house in question.

Ortado points to such features as the 100-year-old bricks and solid oak wood that will likely end up in a landfill, said an environmentally-conscious Mary Rowse, another neighbor who is organizing efforts to save the house.

But to Ortado, this is not simply about saving a house from a bygone era.

"It represents more than just history, it represents craftsmanship and value, there's a lot of value in that house - all the parts in there, all the material," he said.

There is still value, said Ortado, and there's still life.

He added, "Once this is lost it will be something different, it won't be this. They could never replicate this."


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