If historic Belleville home doesn’t sell for $10K, owner will appeal for demolition permit

Jackie Elmore expects to find out on Wednesday whether she has a buyer for a vacant, historic home or if she will instead appeal a board’s decision denying her request for a permit to tear down the 1854 home once described by a local newspaper as the “most tasteful and elegant” in Belleville.

Elmore said there is a closing scheduled for Wednesday for her to sell the building at 109 E. D St. for $10,000 to Mark Gates, who is a general contractor in Belleville.

Gates, who canceled a previous closing scheduled for Jan. 14, said he plans to attend the rescheduled closing to buy the home.

Gates acknowledges he would have “just a ton of things to do” to renovate the home. The work list includes a new roof, windows, heating and cooling systems and water lines. A recent engineering study said a “significant amount of repairs” would have to be completed before people could live there again.

“It’s all going to get done,” Gates said.

It’s too early for Gates to say what he plans to do with the home but he said there are “a lot of possibilities.”

Preservationists know the building as the Cabanne home in honor of Lucien Dutilhe Cabanne, a businessman who built the home. He was a great-grandson of prominent St. Louisian Pierre Chouteau and was a business partner and brother-in-law of A.G. Edwards, who founded the A.G. Edwards brokerage firm, according to research by the Belleville Historical Society. Also, Cabanne and his brother bought the Hinckley Mill in Belleville in 1839.

The home originally had two stories but a third floor was later added.

Other French families followed Cabanne and built homes near his in what is now the Hexenbuckel Historic District in Belleville. This district includes homes along North Jackson, North Charles and North Church streets northeast of the Public Square.

Judy Belleville of the Labor & Industry Museum in Belleville calls this neighborhood the city’s “French connection” in a town mostly known for its German heritage.

Demolition permit

If the sale with Gates does not get finalized, Elmore said she intends to go to the Belleville City Council and appeal the Historic Preservation Commission’s 6-0 vote on Jan. 15 to deny her a demolition permit.

Elmore and her husband, Bud Zipfel, first asked for a demolition permit in August 2017 because they didn’t have enough money to renovate the building and they couldn’t find a buyer.

The building has been vacant for about 10 years. Prior to that, the home and attached buildings in the rear were divided into eight apartments.

In July, the preservation commission asked Elmore to try again to auction off the property. During an October auction, Linda Weisenstein, who is a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, agreed to buy the home for $5,000. But that deal fell through after questions were raised about the easement giving the landowner access to the rear of the home. Elmore said the easement document has been found and that a new owner would have full access to the property.

Gates expressed interest in the home last month after Weisenstein’s proposal fell through.

The fate of the Cabanne home has been debated by Elmore and preservation commission members during multiple board meetings.

The board members said they followed three guidelines in a city ordinance regarding whether to issue a demolition permit for a home located in a historic district.

The ordinance states a demolition cannot occur unless:

An emergency condition exists and public safety requires removal of the structure.

A building does not contribute to the historical or architectural character of the district.

The denial of the demolition will result in an economic hardship on the applicant.

Jack LeChien, the board member who made the motion to deny the request, said Elmore and Zipfel did not meet any of these three requirements, “particularly the hardship provision.”

And board member Justin Dominique said, “In my opinion, it has pure historical significance because of who built the house and the time period.”

Elmore disagree with both of these arguments. She believes the building has lost its historical significance and that the paying for the taxes, insurance and maintenance on the building is an economic hardship.

Elmore said she doesn’t want to tear down the home but if the proposed sale with Gates falls through, she believes she has exhausted all of her efforts.

“Not every building has to be saved,” she said.

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.