Friday, July 31, 2009

sad day...

(Image Source)

In case you haven't heard, Salt Lake lost a treasure today. 1547 Yale Avenue in the Yalecrest Historic District was torn down by the owner, Tom Hulbert. The home is right in the heart of the Historic District, a district that was the feature of the 2009 Utah Heritage Foundation Home Tour.

The home was purchased by the present owners in 2007, at the very same time the Yalecrest district received the designation from the National Register of Historic Places. From the owners website, they felt it was a "beautiful home" and desired to expand on the 2700 square foot home "by adding an addition to the rear of the home." If you click over to the owners website, you cannot read the text unless you highlight it for some reason. He goes through the decision-making process and attempts to defend his actions.

Apparently there were structural problems that needed to be addressed in this 1924 home. According to the engineers on the project, the cost to restabilize the home for another 80 years would have only been $150,000. The owner is not willing to pay that, but is willing to pay upwards of $1 million to build a new 7,200 square foot home? $100/square foot for a 7,200 square foot home will cost $720,000. And I doubt he will get the new home for that cheap.

The owners website documents what they want to do and why, but it all feels hollow and forced. He is thorough, but ultimately made a poor choice. What he and the community of Salt Lake lost is irreplaceable, no matter what home is built there now. In a historic district and neighborhood, there is almost always the option of restoration or new foundation work, which would be cheaper than starting over. And comparing the original home to the new design, well, there really is no comparison.

(Image source)

My number one question is: Why didn't he think to have an 85-year-old home checked out before purchasing to see if there were structural deficiencies and to confirm that he would be able to easily add onto it as was his original plan? THE HISTORIC HOMES AND UNIQUE ARCHITECTURE ARE THE ATTRACTION OF THIS NEIGHBORHOOD that he moved into. So he moves in and two years later has destroyed the very thing he purchased that helps make this neighborhood beautiful and unique! I truly do not understand.

To their credit, they actually tried to sell the home earlier this year. On the 28th of April 2009, the home was put on the market for $945,000. On the 11th of June 2009, the home price was reduced to $899,500. After 62 days, less than a month ago, it was taken off the market. According to the Salt Lake Tribune article, there was an $875,000 cash offer that they declined and opted to destroy the home instead and start over.

I love the remarks included in the real estate report when the home was on the market, “Curb appeal is unbeatable! Home has been prepared for total remodel.”

(Image source - Salt Lake Tribune)

Prior to receiving a demolition permit, a building permit was approved for the new home. While the new design at least has some sensitivity to the site, it is still a 7,200 square foot home. That’s quite an addition. So you mean to tell me that they would have been happy with their existing 2,700 square foot home purchase and a small addition in the back, even if there were no foundation problems? That’s a far cry from this new 7,200 square foot home. It sounds like this is what they wanted from the beginning. In todays slow high-end market, an $875,000 offer for the existing home was a good one. They could have taken it and built their 7,200 square foot home in almost ANY OTHER NEIGHBORHOOD IN UTAH and no one would have cared one bit. But instead they chose to destroy a treasure of the city in one of the few Historic Districts Salt Lake City has. What a travesty. What a loss. What a sad day.

City Wide Historic Preservation Master Plan
City Weekly article

View salt lake architecture in a larger map


  1. How you creat this wonderful blog?

  2. Hello Whoever you are,
    thank you so much for writing this. I live next door to Tom Hulbert (actually three doors away). I have been involved with the Hulberts (including helping them move in) since day one. You hit the nail on the head in this article. You are completely correct on all counts. My neighborhood has suffered a tremendous loss in the demo of this home but we won too. Our little Yalecrest community really came together on this issue. I now know and am on a first name basis with about 40 of my close neighbors that I may not have known ever had it not been for the Hulberts. Also the Yalecrest Community Overlay Infill is being fitted for a resolution making it stronger so that we won't loose any more historic homes. I have not read Tom Hulberts account on his website, nor do I plan to read it. We are no longer friends and no longer neighbors either. Thank you for writing this article on your blog, It means more to me than you'll ever know.

  3. at the very least, it would be prudent for the Hulberts to relocate the planned garage door on the front of the building facade to the rear or side of the structure if not to a detached garage.

  4. My aunt and uncle lived a couple of blocks frome this house. I loved the neighborhood and loved visiting them. I have mixed feelings about tearing down the old homes and I understand that sometimes such action is the best alternative. Still, I do appreciate the owners who keep up these lovely homes. Thanks for this post and I enjoy your blog.

  5. Anonymous - It's great to hear the perspective of a neighbor. Thanks for your comment. And it's nice to see that some good will come out of this by bringing the neighborhood together and also to put measures in place so this will not happen again.

  6. Reuben - I agree completely. There's a lot that could be done even to this new design. Surprisingly quite a few of the homes in the neighborhood have the garage placed similarly but that doesn't necessarily make it the best solution.

  7. Susan W H - Thanks for the comment. I agree that there are times and places where it is necessary to tear a building down and start over. It's never an easy choice. This situation, unfortunately, didn't feel like one where tearing down was necessary yet.

  8. I find the venom directed toward Tom most interesting. Not all "Historic" buildings can be, or should be saved, given engineering and financial constraints. In the end, I find the hatred and the declarations of "friends no longer" the purview of arrogant, small-minded individuals who feel the need to control the actions of another individual whose decisions were based on his own financial situation and the advice given him on the cost to render his home safe and habitable. These are homes, not the Pyramids. They were not designed nor intended to last until the end of recorded time.