Published: Sep 01, 2006 01:21 AM
Modified: Aug 23, 2006 04:53 PM
We were lucky to have two interns working with us this past week.
Jeremy Watson has been with The Chapel Hill News all summer, writing about a Polish war hero, foot-powered rickshaws and big cats at the Carnivore Preservation Trust.
Eric Bishop was on loan from The News & Observer. He rode with Terri Buckner and Carrboro police Cpl. Billy Austin Wednesday night counting homeless people. The numbers will be given to those working on a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness in the county.
We love summer interns. But they don't always know much about Chapel Hill and Orange County. So we show it to them. We get in my Civic, brush away the dog hair and start driving.
Pine Knolls. Southern Village. The mill houses in Carrboro. Dairyland Road. Lake Hogan Farms. Old 86 and historic Hillsborough. It takes about two hours, and we don't get to half the county. But it gives them an idea of how big and beautiful this place is.
We're not Cary, or North Raleigh or Anytown USA. Which only makes Thursday's meeting of the Chapel Hill Historic Commission all the more ironic.
The commission decided the owner of the Dey house on East Rosemary Street, one of the 25 oldest structures in town, has 30 days to make repairs or begin tearing the decaying house down.
I say ironic because you expect a historic commission to protect and preserve. And it tried. But after a certain point, well, even it had to move on.
"I'll be very sorry to see this happen," Catherine Frank, the executive director of the Chapel Hill Preservation Society, said Friday morning.
The town's demolition-by-neglect ordinance, which is designed to get property owners to fix their buildings or tear them down, is not a perfect tool, Frank said. But after the required year's wait, if the owner does not respond, the commission has no choice.
"We have an owner here who has not shown any desire to work with [others] to preserve the house," Frank said. "For the sake of the neighbors, this at least gives them the sense something is going to happen with this property."
It took me getting some gray hair to start caring about history. I'd never really studied the houses of our town's historic districts as I drove past them. But the longer I live here, the more I appreciate what we've got. Read Will Raymond's column on today's front page. Same thing.
Fortunately things look better for another historic property downtown, the Edward Kidder Graham House on Battle Lane.
The architect for a possible buyer is researching what it might cost to restore the nearly 100-year-old house, which was built by the university president.
Frank is hopeful.
A community loses its diversity "when preservation becomes something for rich people, or only for old people or only for people who've lived here 50 years, " she said. "Preservation is for all of us."
It may be too late for the Dey house. I hope it's not too late for the Kidder Graham House.
I only just discovered it, and I'd like to show it to the interns next summer.