- Brian Chilson
- VACANT FOR A YEAR: But house at 1217 W. Third will be fixed up by neighbor.
An imposing 110-year-old house at 1217 W. Third St., between Pulaski and Cross, that was damaged in a December 2013 fire and has been vacant and deteriorating since will be rescued by a neighbor who didn't want to see it torn down.
The neoclassical Homard House was built in 1905 by Isaac J. Homard, an engineer with the Iron Mountain Railroad, according to a history provided by the Capitol Zoning District Commission staff. The Homard family sold the house to Andrew Hanks around 1940, and the house has been in the Hanks family since. The third owner is Carol Worley, a lawyer with Worley, Wood and Parish. Worley lives at Third and Pulaski, roughly cater-cornered to the Homard House, in a large Victorian that had fallen into disrepair and had been used as a crack house before she bought and renovated it.
The city of Little Rock's code enforcement division had declared the house unsafe and asked the CZDC to find it "demolished by neglect" after unsuccessful attempts to get the owners to make repairs. (The owners were apparently in a dispute with their insurance company.) While agreeing the building was being demolished by neglect, the CZDC staff noted that fire damage was limited to small sections of the structure and the commission's Design Review Committee expressed hope at a meeting Feb. 26 that the building could be rehabilitated. A finding that a building is being demolished by neglect is the first step toward seeking an injunction to compel owners to make repairs, CZDC head Boyd Maher said.
On Monday, Worley indicated she would apply to get the nearly 3,000-square-foot home placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which can provide tax credits for restoration. She said she plans to renovate it for offices. The second story of the two-story back porch, which burned, would be replaced with a conference room with a view of the state Capitol, she said.
Worley has rehabilitated a Historic Register structure already: the portion of the 1920 Jung/Kordsmeier building that includes Piro Brick Oven and Barroom on the first floor and her law offices on the second floor, at 1318 S. Main St., next door to Midtown Billiards. The building was in terrible shape when she bought it, she said: The roof had collapsed in back and all the windows, wiring and plumbing needed replacing. The top floor was apartments and the bottom floor had been occupied by bars La'Changes and Pleazures; originally it was the Rose City Bakery and later was the original home of Community Bakery. Piro did the finish-out on the first floor.
The Homard/Hanks house has not been updated since the 1950s, Worley believes. She'll have to replace the roof, but hopes the majority of the home's original architectural elements inside can be saved.
Maher said the CZDC decided to defer action on the demolition by neglect finding until April 16 after learning of Worley's plans.
Also at the February meeting, the CZDC voted unanimously (9-0) to deny a request by the Arkansas Rural Endowment Fund to demolish two houses at 320 and 318 S. Pulaski St. built at the turn of the 20th century. Maher said the homes, on one of the few blocks near the Union Station and the Capitol that retain the original character of what was a large working-class neighborhood, could and should be rehabilitated. It was the position of the staff that "demolitions can serve to reinforce negative stereotypes about downtown Little Rock and to undermine the Capitol Area's long-term efforts to revitalize as one of Arkansas's premier neighborhoods."