The nonprofit Historic Fort Worth Inc. lost its yearlong fight Thursday to save the Terrell Heights home of the late Hazel Harvey Peace, a revered African-American educator and civic leader.
The Fort Worth Appeals Board voted 6-1 to uphold a March 14 ruling by the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission that gives the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, which owns the house at 1103 E. Terrell Ave., permission to demolish it.
Approval for demolition was required because the house, built in 1922, is in the Terrell Heights Historic District.
The Appeals Board decision puts an end to the debate over whether the diocese did enough to try to save the house. The diocese has argued that renovation would not be cost-effective.
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The Landmarks Commission first approved the diocese's request for demolition in April 2010. Historic Fort Worth appealed, and the case has gone back and forth between the two boards for a year.
The two sides
After the ruling, Wini Klein, Historic Fort Worth's board chairwoman, said she is disappointed in the decision, but more so with the Landmarks Commission for not "even looking at all evidence."
Historic Fort Worth's attorney, Harold Hammett, tried to convince the Appeals Board that the diocese didn't fulfill all the criteria required to earn the demolition permit.
"When you go in and buy an historic property, there's no assurance you can destroy it," Hammett said.
Diocese attorney Marcella Olson said her client went beyond what was required.
"This process cannot go on forever," Olson said. "We understand this is a very emotional issue. We do not take this lightly. But we're caught in the Bermuda Triangle here."
Appeals Board member Fred Harper cast the sole vote against demolition. He said it was "beyond comprehension" that the diocese wants to tear down the house.
Appeals Board Chairman Carl Pointer said he'd also like to see the house stay, but that wasn't the board's task. Rather, it was to decide whether the Landmarks Commission followed city code in making its ruling, he said.
"Personally, I'd love to see that house preserved ... but that's not my call," Pointer said. "Our hands are tied on this one. Our job is not going back and retry."
Peace died at age 100 in June 2008. The diocese bought the property from her estate in June 2009 to expand the neighboring Our Mother of Mercy School. In 2002, Peace donated two adjacent lots to the diocese for the school's expansion.
After the meeting, Gary Fragosso, the diocese's assistant director of property management, said no timeline has been set for the demolition.
Peace taught at I.M. Terrell High School and was active in civic affairs well into her 90s.
A city building near the Terrell Avenue home is named the Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods. A diocese spokesman said community leaders have asked to remove portions of the home to display at the Peace Center.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727