Local preservationists are fighting to keep a Baton Rouge home from being demolished, saying the midcentury property on Country Club Drive is historically significant.
The home at 1855 Country Club Drive was built in 1956 by Miami architect Whal Snyder for Hamilton Crawford, the Baton Rouge builder who pioneered the construction of prefabricated “Crawford Homes” across Baton Rouge and New Orleans after World War II.
The home had been owned by Ann Brown and Andrew Singleton Jr. until about a month ago, when they sold it to Whitney Buell and Jason Laubscher for $800,000. A few minutes after closing on the sale of the home, Laubscher flipped the property to his construction company, Magnolia Home Building and Renovations and Lseymour LLC, a corporation he had set up with James Seymour, of Baton Rouge.
On Monday, a permit was filed with the city-parish to demolish the house. Attempts to contact Laubscher were unsuccessful.
“We’re doing everything we can to bring awareness to the home,” said Fairleigh Jackson, executive director of Preserve Louisiana. “We’re hoping they will renovate the house or sell it to someone who will renovate.”
Jackson launched a Change.org petition to get the city-parish Historic Preservation Committee to hold a special meeting to designate the Crawford home as a local historical landmark, which would keep the property from being demolished. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 4,000 people had signed the petition.
The Singletons had been in the process of getting the home placed on the National Register of Historic Places before ill health forced them to drop the effort.
Frank Duke, head of the city-parish Planning Commission, said there’s no threshold for getting an item designated as a local historical landmark. The request has to come from the property owner, the mayor or East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council, or a preservation society, such as Preserve Louisiana.
The deadline has passed to get items on the agenda for the Historic Preservation Committee agenda’s next meeting, which is May 8. The deadline to enter items on the agenda for the June 12 meeting is May 2, Duke said.
That could be too late. Carey Chauvin, head of the Permit and Inspection Division, said it usually takes “a couple of days or a week” to issue a demolition permit. “There’s no timeline,” he said. “We just need to make sure that all of the proper approvals are in place. If all the criteria are met, there’s no basis to withhold.”
Jackson said she’s “a little perplexed” why a demolition permit was applied for. She had a meeting scheduled with Seymour on May 6 to talk about the house.
But she said a buyer, who wants to preserve the Crawford house, has been found. Jackson said she didn’t want to discuss financials, but the person will make an offer beyond the $800,000 Laubscher paid for the home. “We don’t want them to lose money on the deal,” she said.
Jackson said she’s trying to move up the meeting with Seymour to Thursday, and she’s hopeful a resolution can be found that keeps the house standing.
“We keep hearing people saying that Baton Rouge has no identity,” Jackson said. “But we’re tearing down all of the things that tell our story.”