Friday, June 08, 2001

Historic house gets new friend

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The Federal house on Mechanic Street — possibly the oldest building in the city — appears to have survived yet another near-death experience.

        The Lebanon Conservancy Foundation's board of trustees voted Thursday night to offer City Council $100,000 toward buying the building, conservancy Treasurer Jerry Miller said.

        The nonprofit group also would take on the costly job of renovating the fire-damaged building, for which they have already received $100,000 in pledges, he said.

        “I think it's a really good opportunity for the conservancy to be visibly viable,” Vice President Gene Jestice said. “It'll show what preservation can do.”

        In exchange for the investment, the group wants a 99-year lease, at $1 per year. Once renovated, the house could be used for receptions as well as a headquarters for the conservancy, Mr. Miller said.

        The deal, if approved by council, would resolve the latest threat: the $230,000 price tag a jury gave it in May. Several council members have said they could not support spending that much to stop owner John McComb from tearing it down for a parking lot.

        The conservancy's offer, however, could attract the four council votes needed to buy the 1808 building. Ron Pandorf, one of the swing votes, said he'll vote for the proposal.

        Jane Davenport remains undecided but said Thursday: “I think it has a whole lot better chance now.”

        Mark Flick is firmly in favor of buying the house, Amy Brewer is firmly against and James Reinhard has abstained from voting because Mr. McComb is his brother-in-law.

        Ben Cole and Mayor James Mills could not be reached for comment.

        The building has survived additions, fire and rain. It was weeks from demolition in early 2000 when council seized it through eminent domain.


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