The Washington Times-Herald

April 16, 2013

Former County Home to be torn down

By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — The old Daviess County Home will soon be a memory as the current owners, Lighthouse Recovery Center, have decided to tear it down.

The demolition of the building has angered Daviess County Historical Society Director Vince Sellers, who said the building can be saved.

“They’re just dead wrong about it,” Sellers said about the situation.

The decision to demolish the building, built in 1865, came from Lighthouse Director Pete Aldrich, who said the building was no longer safe and too far deteriorated to fix.

“The house is a danger,” Aldrich said.

Aldrich said the house is crumbling and a persistent mold situation has kept people from living in the former county home. The wood and electrical wires are also deteriorating, and other than the structure, there has been nothing left in the home that would be considered historical.

“We’re just taking it apart,” Aldrich said. “If it had the history left in it, it would be a different story.”

In 2006, the drug recovery program bought the property from the Daviess County Commissioners to house males and help rehabilitate drug offenders.

The commissioners, in the deal, put on a new roof, new windows and a new septic system.

Lighthouse has in recent years renovated much of the property near the Daviess County Airport. Sellers said he and the state Department of Natural Resources had surveyed the building and felt it could be saved.

"We looked through the building and couldn’t find anything that couldn’t be fixed,” Sellers said.

An example, Sellers said, was the old Meredith Hotel on Main Street before it was set on fire in 2007. He said a group went through the old hotel and believed they could renovate the dilapidated building.

“If the Meredith Hotel is fixable, surely this house is,” Sellers said.

Sellers, in a letter to the Times Herald, said he noticed the demolition on Saturday and was “enraged.” “I can¹t keep people from making mistakes and the position of the Daviess County Historical Society to preserve,” Sellers said.

“I have offered to help him for a year and a half and for him.”

Daviess County Commissioner Tony Wichman said he was at the home on Saturday and agreed with Aldrich's assessment of the building.

“There’s no fixing it,” Wichman said. “There is so much stuff that is bad about the building itself.” Wichman said the county’s on-call engineering firm of RQAW was called into assess the building last year and said there was nothing that could be saved.

“Preservation is a no-go on it,” Wichman said. “I wish there was but I don’t see an alternative.” The county has the first right of refusal for the parcel and Lighthouse still uses the property.

They have constructed a new dormitory for the men, which brought Aldrich and Sellers at odds over a possible gravesite.

After an archaeologist was called in and investigated, there were no graves found.

“(Sellers) has stood in the way in everything we have done,” Aldrich said.

The historical society, Sellers said, will not challenge the demolition in court.

“I don’t have the authority from the board to do that,” Sellers said on challenging the demolition. “To tear that building down would be a terrible shame and a sin.”

Aldrich said the space is slated to be a parking lot for the new dormitory and buildings on the property.

“We spent thousands (on the house),” Aldrich said. “We are trying to save lives and help people.”