|By G. Michael Dobbs
DevelopSpringfield will restore the Ansel Phelps House.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD The once stately brick house at the corner of Union and Maple streets has been seen much of the city's history since its construction in 1841, and DevelopSpringfield intends the building will see even more.
Jay Minkarah, president and CEO of DevelopSpringfield. announced this week the non-profit organization has purchased the house and a nearby garage building for redevelopment. He explained to Reminder Publications the goal is to stabilize the building and improve its infrastructure to make it attractive to a potential developer.
Although built as a single family home, Minkarah believes the building will likely be redeveloped into several apartments.
The Greek Revival style home was built in 1841 for Solymon Merrick, the inventor of the monkey wrench. Ansel Phelps, the fourth mayor of Springfield once owned it and the building was known as the Ansel Phelps House.
The property has been included on the Springfield Preservation Trust's list of Endangered Historic Properties of Springfield.
Minkarah said the building's redevelopment goes along with the neighboring structure that is being restored by the Springfield Preservation Trust at 77 Maple St.
The effort to bring back the Ansel Phelps House offers a partnership with the Preservation trust, Minkarah said.
"How can we they restore 77 [Maple St.] with 83 [Maple St.] crumbling next door?" he asked.
Purchased for $160,000 with additional funds used to pay back taxes, Minkarah said the building would need its two skylights capped to prevent further water damage to the interior. He is currently looking at bids from two contractors and will hire an architect for the repairs. The work DevelopSpringfield will do will follow historic restoration guidelines established by the National Parks Service.
He hopes the work will be started next month.
Essentially he said he would like to restore the home to keep out "the weather, critters and intruders." The building's distinctive porches and columns would also be part of the restoration process, he added
He said he realizes the restoration work needed to make the building market-ready would cost more than what the building is currently worth.
The 11-room house still has much of historic interior details, Minkarah said.
"This is a property of great importance historically and it is located on a major gateway to downtown. It cannot be lost to disrepair," Minkarah added. "Once restored, however, it will become a tremendous asset once again for our city."
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