Preservationists block demolition

December 1, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Preservationists blocked a plan Tuesday to tear down the former home of Alex Rivera - a well known photographer who captured civil rights era moments on film.The 96-year-old Rivera House on Fayetteville Street is in bad shape and current owner North Carolina Central University calls it unsafe and not worth the cost of repairs.

"It does not reflect the period [when] it was originally built, and it does not, its character does not, reflect other properties along the street," offered NCCU Architect Timothy McMullen.

The school wants it torn down to clear the property for university expansion, but preservationists want it spared.

"The homes on Fayetteville Street are so important that we should preserve them because our history is being slowly drained away without any written documentation," said Carolyn Green, granddaughter of NCCU's founder.

Both sides appealed to the Durham Historic Preservation Commission.

"We just hope that today your decision will give our community a boost by preserving a structure in the city's only African-American historic district," said demolition opponent Denise Hester.

University officials showed the commission a letter from Rivera, supporting demolition of the house, but that didn't sway members, who denied Central's demolition request.

"Our sensitivity for the community and its passion doesn't change. But of course, the university will probably revisit today's meeting, and talk with the appropriate people," said NCCU spokesperson Starla Huggins after the decision.

The university can still appeal, and it says there are safety issues.

"The university is liable for that property and the unsafe conditions, so we'll need to take the appropriate actions," said Huggins.


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