The Auburn City Council directed city staff to begin researching options to relocate a historic home, that sits near the heart of downtown, at its meeting Tuesday.
The home, located at 369 S. College St., was built in 1893 by the Cullars, a prominent family known for making several lasting contributions to the Auburn community.
“(The Cullars) were builders; they were part of the rich agricultural history that we have here as a community and (the home) is one of a few that is remaining, particularly in the southern part of our community,” Mayor Ron Anders said at the meeting.
Councilman Brett Smith, whose law office has been located at the home for nearly five years, said it is important for the council to look into options for moving the home.
“I think we have a duty as a council to use our resources to be responsive and to provide options,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to potentially do good; it’s an opportunity to do some work and some preservation.”
Other council members agreed that it is critical to first hear from the community to determine if this project is of public interest.
“We’re really just interested in the public’s desire to protect the Cullars house,” said Councilwoman Beth Witten.
Although one option could include the city taking on the project alone, Witten said they are exploring the possibility of partnering with the community.
“Is (the project) a completely public scenario where the city moves it to a public piece of property, we rehab the house and make it an asset for the community?” Witten said. “Or is it a partnership with a private individual — a public-private partnership?”
Megan Crouch, assistant city manager, said the city has been looking for a private individual to undertake the project.
“We are facilitating all that we can and are willing to embark on a PR campaign to be willing to find people, help get the word out if people are interested. Our number one goal is for someone interested in saving the house to save it and help them navigate the process,” she said.
Anders said there has already been interest from the community to help move the home.
“There are private sector individuals who are looking at the house, evaluating the cost of moving the house and making those determinations,” he said. “I would encourage anybody from the private sector who’s interested in doing this to talk to the owner of this house if that’s something they would like to do.”
Crouch also said people interested in moving the home can reach out to Scott Cummings, executive director of development services for the city, at 501-7381.
Mary Norman, president of the Auburn Heritage Association, said she has been in talks with the city regarding where to move the home.
“I actually gave them another option,” she said. “I have a property that has an 1840s Greek Revival home and outbuildings on it on Wire Road … and the possibility of moving (the house) out here. The Heritage Association was involved in moving the Nunn-Winston House to Kiesel Park.”
The property, which includes the adjacent Courtyard Apartments, was purchased in 2017 for $4.85 million by Orange-Auburn III, LLC.
Contractor JLD Enterprises LLC, received a six-month demolition permit on May 28 for the house, according to documents obtained by The Villager. After that time, the permit would become null and void.
“The facts are pretty clear. There’s an individual who owns the property … At some point the gentleman is going to want to develop the property. There is a timing mechanism here,” said Smith, who must be out of the home by Sept. 30.
Assuming the city finds a viable option for relocating the home, Smith said there will still be many challenges in getting the house off the property.
“It’s going to be a feat with this house. It’s going to be cut in half, roof taken off, chimneys taken down — it’s going to be a lot,” he said. “It’s going to be an event throughout the city to get (the house) through the traffic lights, the utilities.”
Smith said the Cullars home represents the history of Auburn and is worth preserving for future generations.
“History is important because it tells us where we’ve been,” he said. “It gives us an appreciation of where we’ve been and helps guide our path to where we’re going in the future."