On Feb. 12, council members vo...
HOLLY, Michigan – Resident John Lauve wasn’t ready to give up Tuesday evening as he made one last ditch effort to stop village officials from condemning the rambling and dilapidated home he calls “The Gray Lady,” located at 102 First Street.
After buying the home in November for $23,000, Holly’s Downtown Development Authority deeded the three story structure to the village of Holly. The village of Holly’s intent was to demolish the building and consider other uses for the property including the possibility of creating a 30-35 space parking lot.
During the Feb. 12 public hearing in which council members would decide if “The Gray Lady” should be condemned or not, John Lauve took the podium to share his thoughts.
“Imagine if you will just for a moment this home restored to the original splendor it once was – painted in period-appropriate colors, showcasing all of the still-in-tact Victorian details such as scalloped and diamond pattern shingle siding, the ornate brackets that can be restored as fanciful gables, and the once column porch and balcony opened up and proudly displaying the American flag,” Lauve said. “These are the images I see and I think what could be of this once magnificent historical manor.”
Lauve told council members that Holly is a unique historic village that takes much pride in its longstanding history. “We are Holly – where the streets are lined with one historic home after another and where you’ll find the same artifacts of architecture that others pay to see at Greenfield Village and the like,” he said. “We are Holly - where we go to great lengths to preserve our rich history that makes us a known tourist attraction.”
Calling the home a “blemished gem,” Lauve asked council to postpone any action. “Have a small campaign to find a suitable owner of The Gray Lady – someone that can exercise a suitable, clear plan and timeframe for restoration that we can trust to return her to her former glory,” he said.
Lauve cited several possible uses for the home including office suites, an art gallery, a small hotel, or a new home for the Holly DDA and Chamber of Commerce.
“Consider the good press Holly would receive and the good feelings that would go behind such a constructive cause,” he said before making his final offer to buy the home back from the village himself for $25,000.
Owners of Dryer Funeral Home, Bruce and Gordon Dryer, were not in favor of looking for other uses for the structure.
“I’ve lived next to this Gray Lady all my life,” Gordon said. “It’s much more blight than gem at this point.”
The high visibility of the structure, Gordon said, casts a poor reflection on the community. “It reflects negatively on the town, on our business, on our neighborhood, and I think it’s way beyond saving,” he said. “I don’t care what goes in its place – I would just like to see it gone.”
As a member of council in the 1970s, Bruce said he was one of the individuals instrumental in getting the current “Mill Plaza” parking lot created. “We needed more parking and we got the parking behind the stores downtown – where McKays was – where Bittersweet is now,” he said. With the help of Don Winglemire and other local businessmen at the time, Bruce said three homes were purchased and torn down to make room for the parking lot. Two other homes across the street were also purchased and torn down to make room for the post office, he said.
“I feel this is an opportunity for the village of Holly to take this piece of property – however they want to develop it, that’s fine,” he said. “We do need more parking, but to leave it there and have somebody try to restore it to what it was, I don’t think with building restrictions and the codes you have today that you could ever do that – I’m in favor of it being condemned and torn down.”
Oakland Street neighbor Dave Berger echoed the Dryers’ sentiment. “I hope we take this opportunity to condemn the building and demolish it,” he said. “It isn’t just a blemished gem – it’s nowhere near anything that building used to be.”
Former Holly Councilman Bill K...
Bill Kuyk, a member of Holly’s Planning Commission also favored condemning the old structure. “Anybody that thinks they can restore a building like that is not facing reality,” he said. “I think this council needs a reality check – I think we need to take that building down now and not waste any more time – then you’ve got two years to think about what you want to do with it, and I think that would be the prudent thing to do.”
Following the public hearing, Councilman George Kullis supported condemning the building, but said before demolition occurs, he recommends removing several period artifacts like molding strips, stained glass windows, and other items to be given to the Holly Historical Society.
A past supporter of restoring “The Gray Lady,” Councilman Bob Allsop had a change of heart after recently touring the building.
“That place is such a cockroach inside – it’s so dirty, filthy nasty – John Lauve would have to hire 50 men to clean that out,” he said. “If you cleaned it out and gutted it, you could do something with it, but it’s terrible. I don’t know how any human being could have lived in there, John. I mean, you have a dream of fixing it which I agree, but it was a filthy, nasty, pig sty inside.”
Before making a motion to condemn the building, Councilman Ryan Bladzik reiterated his support of the issue. “I think it’s important to preserve our historical buildings and preserve the charm of the community, but at the same time as (Bruce Dryer) demonstrated and I’m sure Mr. Winglemire and many of the other longtime residents – towns change over time,” he said. “Some buildings stay in good enough condition and they get restored, and some need to be removed for parking lots or other buildings.”
Council unanimously agreed to condemn the old home. Demolition of the building will cost an estimated $20,000, and is tentatively slated to occur sometime this spring.