FORT WORTH -- Kevin Witham's dream of moving his foster-care agency to a historic Meadowbrook home went up in smoke.
"It caught fire July 1," Witham said. "Well, it didn't catch fire -- someone started it."
Little of the house remained, and what was left had to be razed.
But Witham isn't concerned about the arson. He's focused on getting Azleway Children's Services' regional director, seven counselors and four other employees out of leased space in Grand Prairie and into a building the agency owns.
"We're spending more than $100,000 a year on a lease, and we could be putting it into programs for kids," Witham said.
Azleway's four Texas offices oversee the care of about 650 abused, neglected or abandoned children, including 150 in the North Texas region. Witham's father, Billy Partridge, founded the agency in Fort Worth.
"This isn't just about the 150 kids in our care now, but the thousands of kids who will come through Azleway in the future," Witham said.
Azleway planned to move its offices into a house donated by Linda Fash Bush, the granddaughter of oil-boom chemist Ralph Fash, who built the mansion at 2504 Oakland Blvd. in 1925.
The agency was trying to raise $750,000 to remodel the 6,000-square-foot house.
Because the building had been vacant for a decade, it couldn't be insured for more than $150,000. Now the challenge is to raise up to $1 million to replace it.
The new building will include 7,000 square feet of office space and 7,000 square feet for groceries, clothing and warehouse space, Witham said.
Project manager Marvin Ford plans to incorporate part of the mansion's distinctive front porch and a rock foundation wall as a monument, preserving some of the Fash family's legacy. The house was one of the first buildings in Meadowbrook, Ford said.
"It's a landmark for some of the [neighborhood's] older people," he said. "They had tears in their eyes over us tearing the building down."
Leaving the porch and rock foundation intact, Ford believes, will make Azleway's neighbors more comfortable. He's also thinking of the benefactors.
"When the people who donated it go by, they'll see something that connects with them," he said.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620