Public notice period granted for South Street House Demolition

Local preservation groups and community members have 60 days to convince the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette to save two historic properties downtown.

Posted: Dec. 4, 2018 12:13 PM
Updated: Dec. 5, 2018 11:21 AM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — St. Mary's Cathedral plans to demolish a house on 1014 South Street and the carriage house nearby in order to rebuild a new church rectory.

Lafayette Board of Works voted to uphold a 60 day public notice period for that project on Tuesday morning.

According to City Attorney Ed Chosnek, that public notice period is the only power that group has to delay the demolition.

Chosnek said other government entities may be able to encourage conversation between the diocese and the community but the city cannot stop the demolition from happening.

Dozens of people spoke in opposition to the demolition at the public hearing.

St. Mary's Building Committee Chair Mike Gibson was the only person to speak on behalf of the project at the request of the board. However, he didn't say much.

"I really appreciate all the comments today," said Gibson. "I've taken note of them, but really have no comment to make today because we thought it was going to be whether we waive the 60 day or not."

Lafayette Historic Preservation Officer Dann Keiser determined that the demolition of these structures would adversely affect the national historic district and would be a loss of historic resources. The Tippecanoe County Historical Association agrees. 

"I think it would be valid and also just a show of good faith to explore the alternatives in a public way so the community knows what we are thinking or what the parties are thinking as they go into this," said Tippecanoe County Historical Association Chairman Pete Bill. "This is not just about one building it really is about the impact on the community and setting a precedent, setting a trend, sending a statement."

Like every piece of history worth saving, the house on 1014 South Street is rare. Built in 1884, its architecture is unique within the Greater Lafayette area. The original homeowner, Meyer Rose was a prominent member of Lafayette's Jewish community. This newspaper clipping suggests Rose met and was offered a job by President Abraham Lincoln.

Indiana Landmarks Director Tommy Kleckner drove from Terre Haute to be at the Lafayette Board of Works meeting Tuesday. He's optimistic for this community and the entire state of Indiana.

"I can assure you that the statewide preservation community is now watching this situation," said Kleckner. "I hope it's something that St. Mary and the diocese take seriously, takes into consideration, and will respond to the request to enter into talks and discussions about alternatives."

There's also an online petition with more than 2,500 signatures. 

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