After the partial collapse of part of the east wall of the historic Ouerbacker House last week, Metro Council Member David Tandy and several historic preservation groups held a press conference to drum up support for saving the crumbling landmark. The only problem… no press outlets were present 15 minutes after the scheduled start of the press conference. One quick call from Tandy’s office over to the city press room sent all the major stations with eager cameras to the mansion’s doorstep, however. Once the cameras were rolling, pleas from left and right rang out: “Save This House! No, really, Please!”
The long and storied history of the venerable house—built by a steamboat captain, called home by a coffee baron and an episcopal bishop, nearly destroyed by a tornado, and rebuilt with a grand stone facade—was celebrated over and over. The mansion survived urban renewal, abuse, vandalism, fires, and the Great Earthquake of 2008 only to face the wrecking ball since the city couldn’t pay to properly maintain the property.
Area representative David Tandy told the crowd the house is “an important destination point for people west of 9th Street,” noting recent work being done at the Cedar Street Development and African American Heritage Center. Local architect and preservationist Steve Wiser described the process of saving the building as a volleyball game: the community must “keep the ball in the air long enough and something will happen.” He noted that saving the property is the first priority and its future use is secondary.
Proposals are already coming in for renovation from the community and the Land Bank Authority, which owns the house, will either choose to demolish the house or proceed with a suitable rehabilitation plan at an upcoming emergency meeting.