Monday, January 21, 2008

Costs spur Buckeye to kill Raney House's relocation

[Source: Rebekah L. Sanders, Arizona Republic] -- The Nels Benson/Raney House, built by one of Buckeye's first residents in the 1890s, has been the center of preservation efforts for years, but a wrecking crew will tear down the farmhouse by April if no bidders buy it at auction. The Town Council's decision represents a blow to residents in Buckeye and throughout the Valley who are trying to save buildings with ties to Arizona's past. Musicians, professors, and arts lovers have been pushing to designate Arizona State University's adobe Kerr Cultural Center, built in 1948 by Mexican artisans, as a historic property. And last year, a Phoenix man paid more than $150,000 to move a rare, 98-year-old brick home less than a mile in downtown Phoenix rather than see it demolished. But the Nels Benson/Raney House, estimated to be about 115 years old, may not be around much longer. "I'm not willing to put another penny into it," Buckeye Mayor Bobby Bryant said.

The town paid about $40,000 in 2006 to move the home to downtown Buckeye, saving it from a developer's bulldozer. But construction on a $13 million, three-story town-office building is scheduled to start in less than three months on the home's 46-acre, town-owned lot. The price tag to refurbish and transport the home again, plus buy land to keep it on, is about $1.8 million. The home has deteriorated from sitting on beams too long and would need a new foundation and roof after losing shingles and becoming a pigeon magnet, said Chris Williams, manager of contracting and purchasing for the town. To meet disability requirements, the town also would have to install an elevator, he said. The home lost its historical value with the move and previous renovations such as aluminum siding, Williams said. "I've been having a hard time finding people wanting to see it saved," Bryant said. "The reaction I get in general is people don't want to spend any money on it."

But some contend the house's deterioration and the cost to restore it were exaggerated. "There wouldn't be a problem with moving it. The doors still work and it's still solid," said Roy Dean, owner of A-Arid State House Movers and Enterprises, which initially moved the home. "It's just a matter of taking the bull by the horns and getting it done." [Note: To read the full article, click here. Arizona Republic photo of Buckeye resident Lee Hunter watching the Raney House being moved from Irwin Avenue to the south side of downtown Buckeye in 2006. ]