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Dave Olson, Published January 02 2014

Free century-old house to a good home

FARGO -The introductory lines of the online ad posted on Craigslist are hard to ignore:

Free house.

In parentheses comes the hitch – if you move it.

The house in question, a Victorian two-story built in 1900, is located at 1101 8th St. S., in Fargo, in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.

Matt Myers and his wife, Jacqueline Bussie, recently purchased the house after a potential buyer of the property explored with the city the possibility of tearing the old house down and erecting a more modern structure.

“They wanted to demolish the home and build some kind of tract home that a lot of folks in the neighborhood, including ourselves, objected to because we felt it would ruin the character of the neighborhood,” said Myers, whose family lives in the house next door to the one they bought and are hoping to give away.

Myers said the point of the Craigslist ad was to find someone willing to take the house for free and move it elsewhere, thereby preserving the vintage structure designed by pioneer Fargo architect A.J. O’Shea.

He said the remaining lot would become attractive green space.

The couple is open to the idea of selling the house where it is, with the understanding the new owners would rehabilitate the home and not replace it with a newer structure.

“I don’t know how likely that is,” Myers said. “We’ve had a few folks look at the home and they were not interested in rehabbing it because it would be a fairly costly endeavor.”

It might be less costly, Myers said, for someone to take the home for free and pay to move it to a spot where real estate is less pricey and where the house could be rehabilitated from the ground up on a new foundation.

The home’s foundation was identified as a problem area by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, which recently reviewed the structure.

The review was prompted by the potential buyer who wanted to tear down the structure, but needed permission from the city to do so because the building is part of an historic overlay district, said Dawn Mayo, assistant city planner.

Mayo said a walk-through of the house revealed a number of significant structural issues the commission determined would be costly to fix; therefore, the prospective buyer was told the building could be torn down if purchased.

That potential buyer, she said, backed away from a deal because they didn’t feel welcomed by the neighborhood.

Mayo said she wasn’t sure whether the commission’s permission to demolish the house would extend to anyone other than the potential buyer who requested the review.

She said the new house that was proposed to replace the old one was deemed by the city to be scaled correctly for the location and she said it would have been a quality structure.

Myers said he and his wife haven’t looked into what it might cost a new owner to move the 113-year-old house, but he said it’s a fairly common occurrence in Fargo.

When the city recently auctioned homes as part of a flood buyout project, a professional house mover said moving a house can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $70,000, depending on how far it has to go and the potential obstacles along the way.

Myers said since the ad was posted Monday they’ve had a lot of interest expressed in the house but no takers so far.

He said he isn’t sure what they will do with the house if no one wants it for free and no one is willing to buy it and restore it on site.

“We haven’t thought that far ahead. We’re being optimistic,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555