Demolition began Thursday on the turn-of-the-century Decker French House near the Palmer College of Chiropractic campus in Davenport, nearly a decade-and-a-half after the college first sought permission to raze it.
The college received permission to demolish the home in April, with the Davenport Historic Preservation Commission voting 6-2 in favor of allowing a demolition permit.
Robert Lee, Palmer's vice chancellor for support services, said asbestos removal and disconnecting utilities led to the delay between getting the go-ahead and the demolition.
The Decker French House, at the corner of East 11th Street and Pershing Avenue, was built 99 years ago in the prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright. It is part of the Cork Hill historic district and on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was the former home of early Davenport industrialist George Decker French.
It has sat empty and boarded up since the first battle between preservationists and Palmer in the late 1990s.
This spring, the historic preservation commission, basing its decision on a city inspection that determined the house was deteriorating rapidly and becoming a hazard, reversed its previous position on the house and agreed to support a demolition permit.
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Fritz Miller, a member of the preservation commission, previously said the fate of the house was an example of demolition by neglect. Before Palmer's purchase in 1996, the home had been broken up into several small apartments. Preservationists warned that the college bought it to clear space for more surface parking near the campus.
However, Lee said parking on the lot was never part of the plan and noted it will be converted to green space.
"We'll be stabilizing the site this month and seeding it next spring," he said. "We're also replacing a deteriorated sidewalk and cleaning it up and turning it into a grass lawn area. We have committed for it to be green space, not parking. I can't say it won't someday be a building, but for now it will be green space."
Palmer officials cited "economic hardship" because of the high cost of renovating the building when it originally requested a demolition permit. The estimated cost of renovation was tabbed at $700,000 to $1 million. Lee said the college looked at several plans to convert it into apartments or a sorority house but couldn't make the numbers work.