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Saga unfolds of how Eastwood house met its fate

Friday, July 17, 2009

"The last thing in the world we wanted to do was tear down that house," said Marshall Mayor Connie Latimer Thursday, July 16.

As the house at 750 E. Eastwood St. was being torn down Thursday morning, Latimer said the number of hours consumed by city officials in dealing with the demise of one of Marshall's oldest homes was "unbelievable," gesturing towards a file several inches thick sitting on her desk.

The house, built in 1882 for Marshall resident Thomas C. Rainey by Edgar R. Page in the style of an Italian villa, was razed Thursday morning. Rainey was a businessman with interests in Marshall, Arrow Rock and Kansas City; Page was involved in the construction of Saline County Courthouse at about the same time.

The home of former Marshall attorney Lawrence McClure, the building had not been occupied in some time, Latimer said, perhaps as long as five years.

McClure and his wife purchased the house from John Irvine in 1974. When the McClures divorced in 1987, Lawrence McClure kept the house.

After serving as an Associate Court judge beginning in 1976, McClure was voted out of office in 1982, but continued to practice law in Marshall, operating out of an office in an older building that faces Salt Pond Avenue.

In 2004, his law license was revoked when McClure was accused of diverting funds from the estate of an elderly client for his own use, including a $10,000 payment on a note secured by the Eastwood house. A Saline County grand jury indicted him for class B felony theft in April 2005.

The case came to a close in 2007, when he took an Alford plea and was sentenced to incarceration in Saline County Justice Facility, monitored home detention and five years supervised probation.

It has taken more than two years of work on the part of the city to bring the current matter to a conclusion. Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Donald G. Stouffer, who is also legal counsel to the city council of Marshall, said dealing with the Eastwood Street property consumed a lot of time and effort.

"We have never spent this much time on a single piece of property," Stouffer said, adding that the house's status as one of the oldest homes in the city was most of the reason for the intensity of the effort.

The building was determined to be a hazard, said Stouffer, because it was not closed against intrusion, it was not watertight and the maintenance of the grounds was not in line with city requirements.

McClure was notified by the city inspection department multiple times of problems with the property, beginning with notices sent about overgrowth of weeds in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Latimer said the city inspection department is a "complaint-driven" operation, and noted that the city had received many complaints about the condition and upkeep of the home from concerned neighbors.

In May 2007, in response to neighbors' complaints about "tall weeds, unlicensed vehicles and the garage" being in bad shape, the city conducted a lengthy inspection of the property, took dozens of pictures and notified McClure that repairs were required to bring the building up to code. The return certification was signed by McClure, indicating he had received it.

When no action from McClure was forthcoming, the city "had no choice," Latimer said, but to move to the next level of attention to the problem.

Beginning with a meeting Aug. 24, 2007, more than a dozen hearings were held in the next two years. Just getting the first hearing organized took three months. After that first meeting, a notice of findings was sent to McClure, who acknowledged receipt of the report, but still took no action to address the multiple problems with the house, the garage and the general condition of the property and the surrounding acreage.

Although vehicles being stored in the garage were removed in the fall of 2007, "No progress was made in regard to the garage or house repairs," according to city records. The city's records indicate that during the winter of 2008, the garage was repaired and secured, but in March 2008, the contractor who did the garage work said he hadn't yet been contracted to do repair work on the house.

In October 2008, records say, title to the property changed hands from Lawrence McClure to Jean R. McClure Trust of Columbia. Jean McClure is Larry McClure's mother.

In November 2008, when conditions on the property had not changed except for the garage repair, the city began to move toward demolition. Late in the month, the contractor who repaired the garage gave the city an estimate of $59,500 to make repairs to the roof, including sheeting, downspouts, fascia, gutters, soffits, cornice and trim, to tear off siding, replace exterior doors, tear off the back porch and re-do the deck. Those repairs were never undertaken.

At a hearing in February 2009, McClure asked the board to consider granting a 45-day delay "to see if (he) can remove the barriers so that repairs can begin." The request was granted. This was McClure's only appearance before the board; he was represented at all the other meetings and hearings by his attorneys.

Latimer spoke briefly with McClure after the hearing. During their conversation, she said, she asked him if he felt bad about the situation with the house.

"He said he was sorry about it, and that he understood why the city was taking action," Latimer said, but noted that in the ensuing 45 days, no action was taken by McClure. The city's Code Enforcement Board voted to demolish the house on April 28.

Latimer noted that local residents have questioned why the McClures didn't sell the house and/or why the city didn't buy it. As far as can be determined, the house was never offered for sale. But public title records obtained by The Marshall Democrat-News show that even if a willing buyer could have been found, obtaining clear title would have been expensive.

Any buyer would have had to clear multiple liens against the house, including federal tax liens, Missouri State tax liens, deeds of trust and local real estate taxes, for a total of more than $215,000. Although some of the liens are old and might be questionable, they are still attached to the property.

Assuming the house would have sold for its current appraised value of $102,300, just purchasing the house and its nearly five-acre lot, paying the liens and making the repairs to the roof and exterior mentioned earlier would consume more than $375,000, and that is assuming no additional repairs would be made. One local contractor estimated repairs to make the house livable might cost as much as $100,000 to $200,000, upping the ante to the half-million dollar range.

When the city's intention to demolish the house received wide publicity, many area residents raised objections to the loss of what was described as a "historic" home, and wondered why the city couldn't "fix it up."

Latimer said, "If we did that, then the taxpayers would have fixed up Larry McClure's house for him," she said, "and I don't think that's a proper use of the public's money."

McClure was not available for an interview for this story. His only known address is a post office box in Columbia.

Even with the demolition of the house, McClure's troubles with the city are not over. His former law office on Salt Pond Avenue is also under scrutiny by the city for its upkeep and current condition. The building, which has frontage on both North Street and Court Street, was boarded up by the city some time ago in an effort to keep pigeons and other animals from entering the building. The display windows on North Street are dirty; sagging curtains and drapery rods crowd the windows and the interior is full of pigeon droppings and feathers.

The once-beautiful home is now just an untidy pile of boards. When the debris is finally cleared, the city will fill in the basement with waste concrete and rock, topping it with a layer of soil, and then sow grass seed to leave the property in mowable condition. In time, only the void where the house once stood will give any indication that it was ever there at all.

Latimer said, "We don't take (situations like this) lightly," and noted there were points at which the house could have been saved, but required action by the home's owner that never materialized.

"It's not that we didn't do our homework on it," she said, "and it isn't something we wanted to do, but we were left with no choice."

Contact Kathy Fairchild at

marshallhealth@socket.net

Photo gallery:

www.marshallnews.com/gallery/4260/

Related stories:

Condemned 19th-century house on Eastwood bites the dust Thursday:

www.marshallnews.com/story/1555139.html

Past its prime: 127-year-old home on Eastwood Street slated to be razed:

www.marshallnews.com/story/1552789.html


Comments
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farmers'granddaughter: You said "You were not in Marshall several years ago when a group tried to organize support for a historical neighborhood and ordinance that would have protected these old homes, buildings and landmarks." Can you give me some dates and/or the group's name to research? It's apparently farther back than 2001, which is about the limit of our online resources. I heard today that possibly that effort extends back as far as the 1980s. In any case, if there are buildings in this town that deserve to be protected, then there's no time like the present to try again. The surest way to lose more buildings is to continue to do nothing.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Wed, Jul 22, 2009, at 8:53 PM

My sister's house was sold on the Court House steps after she couldn't pay her taxes for 3 years and they didn't even have to mow her yard or "upkeep" the grounds. The City published it in the newspaper that they were selling her house on the Court House steps on a certain date and they sold it, because she couldn't come up with $942.00 back taxes. I guess it only happens to some people.

-- Posted by mosthonest1 on Tue, Jul 21, 2009, at 8:13 PM

Ms. Fairchild,

The damage to that house was repairable by the right person who was willing to shell out their money. It probably would have qualified for the national register because of the Italianate design. There just simply was not enough alloted time to find that person. The Mc Clure house is not the first old home to fall victim to this process!

You were not in Marshall several years ago when a group tried to organize support for a historical neighborhood and ordinance that would have protected these old homes, buildings and landmarks. A person who lived on Eastwood from a well known "heritage family" organized people against this effort and the P & Z voted it down! She felt that "rights were being violated". People were talking against this effort at the hearing who did not even reside in the areas to be affected. It would have cost tax payers nothing and it would not have restricted landscaping in their yards. All we wanted was to protect "status quo" the exterior architectural heritage and aesthetic character and appearances of Eastwood, North, Arrow, parts of Odell, Brunswick and Porter streets at least. Marshall residents who did not even live on these streets were speaking against this effort. Those people were infringing our rights to protect these special neighborhoods, thus Marshall's historical integrity became more and more endangered.

News articles in the MDN at that time totally misrepresented the situation and did not accuratly portray the truth behind the situation.

Efforts were abandoned because those in favor absolutely felt beaten to death!

At least you are attempting to report the news as it unfolded. But there is a lot that you do not know because you have not lived here for the past 50 or so years!

-- Posted by farmer'sgranddaughter on Tue, Jul 21, 2009, at 12:13 PM

I don't think the city "works" the system and deliberately sets out to destroy houses. It's expensive and time-consuming and the city gains absolutely nothing positive from it, except to rid the city of a safety hazard.

What ought to happen as a result of the stories we've done is that concerned citizens ought to get together and work on preserving the oldest buildings in town. Contacting The Historic Preservation and Heritage Trust looks like a really good start to me and I hope someone does that.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Tue, Jul 21, 2009, at 6:35 AM

Ms Fairchild,

I still say that this could have been handled differently. If every old structure in Marshall was torn down because of "structural damage", our town would be leveled. The articles in the MDN were very informative and well written. It is too bad that they were written a year or more too late to save this house. If the public beyond Marshall would have learned about this story earlier, this house may have been saved and restored. The Historic Preservation and Heritage Trust organizations look for endangered properties like the McClure House.

It is all in how one "works" the system and who gets to benefit the most. Unfortunately, the town of Marshall always loses more and more of "it's" charm and grace from days gone by!

The people never seem to find out about stories like this until it is too late. That is how "our city" works the system!

-- Posted by farmer'sgranddaughter on Mon, Jul 20, 2009, at 3:14 PM

Good job Kathy.

-- Posted by Rev WmYaeger on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 11:15 PM

mosthonest1: I'm definitely not an expert on the tax issue, but it isn't easy to take the property. I do know that the cost of mowing is added to the taxes due, but how long that can go on, before more is done, I can't say for sure.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 9:27 PM

I thought when a person doesn't pay they're taxes, then the city or county takes the property and sells it on the court house steps for back taxes. I also thought when the city has to mow and upkeep someone's yard, the city charges that owner for all of the upkeep and after awhile the city ends up confiscating the property for payment, if the owner doesn't pay the city. How does this actually work?

-- Posted by mosthonest1 on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 7:17 PM

born-n-raised: Yes, the liens survive. If McClure does not mow the property, the city will have to do it, as it does with many other properties throughout the city that aren't mowed by their owners in a timely way.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 4:34 PM

So does this mean that the empty lot has $215,000 of liens and taxes still attached to it? What happens when the McClure's don't take care of the lot? It looks like this will continue to be the city's, and thus it's citizens, burden forever. Personally, I'd rather my tax paying dollars go to something more worthwhile.

-- Posted by born-n-raised on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 4:04 PM

Ms. Fairchild: good job, again. Watch out, we have come to expect that of you. :)

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 4:00 PM

What a shame. This was once a gorgeous home. It has bothered me for years every time I would drive by it and see it get worse and worse. Unfortunately, the owner knows exactly what he can and can't get away with. With the amount of deterioration, it is probably worth more as a vacant lot now. So, it appears he won this one!

-- Posted by radargart on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 2:35 PM

farmer'sgranddaughter: Far more than roof repairs were needed - there was interior structural damage, too.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 2:14 PM

carolann: Thanks for adding to the story. We don't have any photographs showing the condition of the interior of the house, although they do exist. The added-on portion wasn't the only problem, just the most obvious.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 2:12 PM

Demolition of the house does not change ownership. The Jean McClure Trust still owns the lot.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 2:05 PM

As usual we are willing to destroy vs finding a way to save our history. Marshall is intent in trying to act as a big city. As in the past it will come back to haunt us. We profess to want to promote Marshall, but then in the same breath turn a blind eye to it. How many historical buildings needlessly will be destroyed. If it something the rich of this town want or a modern addition that they control then we jump right on it. The powers in control need to look at what is best for all people in town not just the few.

-- Posted by auntmeme3401 on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 2:05 PM

I feel I should add to the history of 750 E. Eastwood before this story is put to bed.

My grandmother, Nadine Young was born and raised in this house. A few months after her family moved to another house on Eastwood, she married my grandfather, John W. Irvine, and moved back to 750 E. Eastwood.

John and Nadine began having children in 1914. I can't tell you the exact year of her birth as I write this, but Mr. Rainey must have sold the home to my family not too long after it was built.

My mother Jane, and her siblings were all born and raised there.

The house was sold to Larry McClure after John's death in the 1970's.

After seeing the pictures of the back of the house, I must tell you that section was added on by Larry. I'm afraid I'm even more sick at the thought of the new section being the root of the problem.

It will be some time, if ever, before I drive or walk past without feeling sadness, anger, or nausea.

-- Posted by carolann marsh on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 1:59 PM

I was just wondering now that the house is torn down, what happens to the lot. Who owns it, does the city or Mr. McClure?

-- Posted by pioneer on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 1:57 PM

Certified governments such as Marshall can apply for government block grants for revitalization and improvements. The roof repairs could have been made with one of those grants and then that house could have been sold nationally. Someone would have purchased it and fell in love with the Eastwood neighborhood. Unfortunatly these grants are also available for demolition. This process could have been handled differently. I cannot believe that all of those hearings took place before the public and neighborhood found out exactly what was happening. We must STOP tearing down every old structure that we have left. Marshall has been stripped of it's architectural heritage! It is sad that no one really cares. Everyone just says that nothing else could be done! How sad!

-- Posted by farmer'sgranddaughter on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 1:22 PM

Great story, Kathy. I am not that interested in the topic, but I am sure that this well written piece answers a lot of peoples' questions.

-- Posted by countryman on Fri, Jul 17, 2009, at 1:02 PM


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