Durham man offers up free house

January 28, 2008 1:00:20 PM PST
There's a house in one of the Triangle's most desirable neighborhoods that's available for free, because the owner wants to build a bigger home on the lot.

It's located across the street from Duke's east campus, at 1704 Markham Avenue. It's an old house, built sometime during the 1920s, and it's not in great shape. But it's historically significant because its former occupants include mill supervisors from the days when Durham was a bustling manufacturing town. It's also housed several members of Duke's faculty over the years. That's why John Schelp of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association is spreading the word that the house is available to someone who is willing to move it.

"Well, we're working hard to keep it from becoming landfill dust," Schelp told Eyewitness News. While Schelp and other preservationists in Durham want to save the house, "It's not something that I'm interested in doing," said its owner, Jeff Monsein. "But if somebody has the wherewithal and a place to put it, I'm willing to give them the house and give them $5,000. They're great houses and I've fixed up, literally, dozens of them. But some of them are not worth fixing. In this case, this house, if somebody does take the time to move it, I think they'll have a diamond in the rough!"

With some improvements, the house could be cozy. It has nice, possibly original hardwood floors inside, along with structural challenges like cracks in the walls and a crumbling foundation. Monsein told us the new owner will have to pay for the fixes. "I mean, new wiring, new electrical, new sheetrock. Somebody's gonna have to really love an old house and put their heart and soul in it."

Monsien would like a firm commitment from potential new owners by February 8, or he will tear the house down. He knows some people could still salvage something after its demolished. "Like the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, he's already put his dibs in on the rails for the front porch," Monsein said.

But preservationists would prefer seeing the porch and the house, on another lot. Contact Cassie Mowrry of Preservation Durham at carrie@preservationdurham.org if you're interested in owning the house.


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