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1888 Riley-Lehane House 823 Samuels Avenue

Historic Preservation

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#1 John S.

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Posted 18 May 2015 - 03:50 PM

Hi All,

Since this may seem as self-serving, I'm reluctant to post anything about our home on the forum but there is a preservation side to this issue. I won't go into all the changes on Samuels Avenue that have occurred since we bought the historic Riley-Lehane house in 1989; in 2008 the property was almost sold to a developer for more than is being asked for now. The landmarked 1890's Queen Anne style Garvey house was sold to a lawyer-investor last September but remains partially gutted without any signs of work since last November. I keep hoping for a favorable outcome. Far more encouraging is the mid-1880's Getzendaner House at 760 Samuels that was given a new lease on life over the past two years. (Thanks, Gwen and Jim!) Now we have 823 Samuels which would have been fully restored by now if the economic winds of fate had been more favorable over the years. Age (64) is starting to creep up as well; I can no longer stand working on scaffolding or a ladder for a full day. In short, it's time to pass this well preserved Fort Worth home on to some new, caring owners with the resources to complete the restoration. They will become only the third owners to live in the house because the original owners, members of the Riley-Lehane family, lived here for 98 years! (1890-1988) I was honored to have 823 Samuels posted on the nationally known Old House Dreams website: http://www.oldhoused...ort-worth-tx-2/   There are some interior photos, and an extensive number of archival images and historical narrative. It would be improper to discuss pricing here but I will add it's negotiable. Any prospective buyer will be offered my entire collection of documentary resources not only this property but for all of Samuels Avenue as well. Concerns about redevelopment are valid but currently there are no announced projects pending. Carleton Properties announced in Oct. 2013 a 230+ unit apartment complex with an eleven story tower across from Pioneers Rest Cemetery but the 6.4 acre parcel has been recently placed up for sale. A long time major developer exited the neighborhood a couple of years ago. There's at least some indication that the middle of the Samuels Avenue/Rock Island neighborhood will remain residential and mostly single family for the foreseeable future. Age and (spouse's) declining health now make it a favorable time to sell and relocate from downtown to a quieter, perhaps rural locale. The Stockyards District is but a couple of blocks due north off Decatur Avenue. From a strictly preservation perspective, documented 1880's vintage houses are exceedingly rare in Fort Worth; most early homes remaining here are on Samuels Avenue. It is my wish and hope the next owners can restore the Riley-Lehane House back to period perfection and will seek out national register and/or Registered Texas Historic Landmark (R.T.H.L.) designation  for the home. All the documentation necessary for such designation is available. We raised our two children from pre-school to graduation and adulthood here and will always have many fond memories of this special place. Realtor contact information is available on the Old House Dreams site and I'll be happy to answer any questions if I have the answers. I'm hoping there is at least one preservation minded prospective buyer we can work with in our city. Posting the 1880's Getzendaner House (760 Samuels) and the 1890's Garvey House (769) on the Fort Worth Forum led to their sale, so I'm hoping by posting 823 Samuels here the preservation work I began long ago can be continued. Not many intact Victorian era homes remain here. My apologies to John Roberts if posting this is inappropriate; it was posted on Historic Fort Worth's site a couple of years ago but did not generate a lot of interest.



#2 Zetna

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 06:22 AM

I love your house John! I called on it back in '09 when you were selling, but just was more than we could afford...loved the house itself, a property large enough to garden on, the beautiful tree-filled front yard and even the neighborhood....I know it's worth more now due to what's going on in the neighborhood, but like you, I hope that your house with the houses you mentioned being preserved, they can become a pocket of homes on Samuels similar to the pocket of homes where the Hattie May Inn is located. Good luck w/ the sale to a sensitive buyer and hope you find the right rural spot you're looking for as well.



#3 John S.

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 12:20 PM

Hi Zetna, thanks for the positive thoughts. I think you are correct in that at least the mid-section of Samuels Avenue, where the majority of Victorian era homes are located, could become a preserve of homes much like the Leuda St. district off Pennsylvania Ave. on the South Side. It is critical that the already state and local landmarked Garvey House be rehabbed/restored to "anchor" this area. Some efforts are also being made to bring in in-fill quality single family housing on some of the vacant lots. Someone with a lot of vision and ample resources could reinforce the historic character by moving endangered period homes and reconstructing them so they look compatible with existing homes. In Dallas, Old City Park has created a village like feel with the 19th century homes moved and assembled there. Almost all would have been razed had they not been moved. I have identified scores of endangered houses from the 19th century which could be had for very little but numbering details, cutting up, loading, and transporting them does bring up the costs. Then a foundation and utility services have to be added but each addition makes the historic streetscape more cohesive. A friend of mine rescued an endangered 1860's Italianate mansion from Medina, Ohio which the local library wanted for a parking lot expansion. He sawed it into 8 foot wide pieces, rented a crane to lift and stack the sections, then hauled it on 17 flatbed trailers to Forestville, CA (north of San Francisco in Sonoma County) where he spent several years carefully reassembling the house. Now the house looks like it was built there and it is period perfect inside and out. My fellow preservationist estimates a full million went into the move and reassembly. Some additional seismic reinforcements added to the reconstruction costs but the result is a grand mid-Victorian mansion perched on a Redwood covered hillside. He built a mansard roofed carriage house to match the period home by using archival plans.  Quite a few Californians are relocating to the DFW area in recent years and perhaps one will want a period home with character. Compared to real estate prices in many California locales, ours might be considered chump change. That said, I'm happy that our real estate prices haven't gotten crazy like they are on the West Coast. A realtor friend of mine in Seattle constantly laments the lack of available properties for sale there. The average single family residential supply is a mere 500 properties for a population of over 650,000 with limited land mass available for new construction. Most new listings in Seattle get multiple offers with the property sometimes selling for more than asking. While our future plans are fluid, I will continue to work on our home with the assumption we could live here indefinitely. Wish I could do much more but we have to use the resources that are available. I appreciate the well wishes.



#4 John S.

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Posted 25 July 2015 - 12:16 PM

Price has been lowered this past week to $289,900. (it was listed with a realtor at $395,000 back in 2008 for comparison and a developer offer of $325K was declined in June of that year) 



#5 John T Roberts

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Posted 25 July 2015 - 06:31 PM

Thanks for the update.



#6 John S.

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Posted 26 July 2015 - 12:45 PM

You're welcome, John. I forgot to mention that, for unknown reasons, our MLS listing shows 2 bedrooms when in fact there have always been THREE (3) bedrooms in the 1888 Riley-Lehane house and rather large ones at that. I've attempted several times to get our agents, who acknowledged the error, to make a listing correction without success so far.

With the announced Stockyards development, the increasing popularity of Panther Island, as well as downtown construction projects coming to completion while others are being announced, its only a matter of time before development pressures increase again on Samuels Avenue. I know our neighbor and realtor Gwen Harper (760 Samuels; the historic Getzendaner House) is wanting some kind of protection for the documented historic homes remaining on Samuels and we fully support her efforts. While on the subject, I also want to voice concern about the Garvey House, a state and local landmarked towered Queen Anne style house from the 1890's. I had hoped after a winter lull that renovation work would resume again on this major historic home but we are now past the mid-summer mark and no activity has been noticed. The property sold last Fall after the family that had owned it since 1972 had decided it best to sell. The Garvey House buyer did the interior demolition work that was deemed necessary, cleaned up the debris, and then stopped. As we know, development in Fort Worth comes in waves and cycles and I have no doubt that once development ramps up in the Stockyards district (just a couple of blocks to the northwest of Samuels/Decatur Avenues) and the Trinity River Vision makes more progress, that attention to Samuels Avenue will increase again. Let's hope by that time some measure of protection to help preserve some of the earliest homes remaining in Fort Worth will be in place. We turned down a developer's offer back in 2008 but I'm not sure we could do so now. Then again, people looking for Victorian era homes to restore in Fort Worth seem to be as rare as the few survivors we still have here.



#7 John S.

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Posted 08 September 2015 - 12:45 PM

Note: the bedroom listing discrepancy has been corrected to now show 3 bedrooms instead of 2. I have a floorplan posted on Fllickr in case someone is interested: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11236515@N05/19912522372/ 

We've had several prospects lately and fortunately no developers. Two of the prospects were younger married families with children who I think would be ideal and could carry on the work we've accomplished so far but an irony is that younger couples often have limited financial resources compared to older individuals. Should anyone wish to see what an almost completely unaltered and intact late 1880's Fort Worth Victorian home looks like, please feel welcomed to come out and take a look.







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