Allen house work already underway

By Lynn R. Parks

The owner of a historic house in downtown Seaford that had been slated for demolition has met his first deadline under a city-approved plan to improve the property. The front porch of the Allen house on High Street is now in full compliance with the city code.

City building official Josh Littleton said that property owner Bamdad Bahar now has 180 days to complete renovation work on the remaining exterior portions of the house. That work is already underway, Littleton said.

After that, Bahar will have a year to get the interior of the house up to code.

In the meantime, the condemnation of the house remains in place, Littleton said. The citys order to demolish the structure has been stayed while work continues on the house.

Speaking via email while on a business trip in China, Bahar said that the work on the porch took two months. Workers replaced two front columns that were damaged due to rot with two intact columns from the back of the porch.

The project also included replacing rotten wood and repairing the gutter system to divert water away from the porch. In addition, the porch floor and ceiling were replaced and painted.

The porch was a lot better than anyone thought, Bahar said. Before we started, there were people in Seaford and among our management team who thought the porch was so bad that it would have to be torn off. But when we opened things up, it was a lot better than anyone anticipated. Still bad in some areas, but definitely repairable.

Bahar said that his crew has started replacing wiring, plumbing and heating and air conditioning ducts, work that they will continue to the point that insulation can be put in behind the siding. The siding will likely be restored, he said, and replaced in some areas where it is rotten.

There are other big issues with the exterior, including the back porch and windows, he added. But the insulation is a priority, right after getting the wiring and plumbing in that same space.

As for the homes interior, Bahar said that all of the wiring and lighting fixtures will have to be replaced, as none of it meets current UL Standards for safety.

The fireplaces will be restored, he said. Were looking at keeping as much of the antique wall coverings as possible.

Workers have also turned their attention to the carriage house in the back yard, which Bahar intends to rent out as soon as he can to get some cash flow going. The crew has put in new water lines to connect the carriage house to the citys main line at the front of the property, put in new water heaters and brought the electrical wiring up to the point that it could be inspected and approved by the city.

So now, its interior and exterior repair, Bahar said.

Right now, much of the work on the project is on hold while Bahar waits to hear from his application for a grant through the states Downtown Development District program, of which Seaford is a part.

The program reimburses developers up to 20 percent of their costs, after the first $25,000 of investment.

Even so, Bahar is confident that workers will be able to meet city deadlines. We will under all circumstances be on schedule with our commitments to the city council, he said.

The house, at 114 High St., was built in the mid- to late-1800s by William Ross, governor of Delaware from 1851 to 1855 and builder of the Ross Mansion on the north side of town, for his son. The Ross family owned the High Street house until it was purchased by William and Addie Allen.

William, who died in 1946, was active in Democratic politics in Sussex County; he served in the state Senate from 1925 to 1929 and was a U.S. Congressman in the 75th Congress, 1937 to 1939.

In 1994, the Allen family sold the home to John C. Chanoski and Pamela A. Landon. The condition of the house slowly deteriorated until on Sept. 30, 2011, it was condemned by the city.

In April, the house was one of six structures in the city that were slated for demolition. The city council awarded a contract for $83,140 to Sunnyfield Contractors Inc., Dover; the work was to be completed by the end of June.

Citizens, in particular members of Seaford Tomorrow, a grassroots effort that is working to boost downtown, met with Bahar and with city officials in an attempt to save the house. At its April 28 meeting, the city council agreed to hold off on the demolition until after its May 12 meeting. At that meeting, the council voted to withdraw the contract to demolish the structure.

Tammy Kearney, Seaford, is vice president of the Nanticoke River Arts Council, owner of Gallery 107 on High Street, and a member of Seaford Tomorrow. She said that she is pleased with the work that has been done on the house.

I think that the porch looks great, she said. I look forward to seeing further improvements to the front of the house. While we know there is much to be done, in the long run this is well worth the effort.

Kearney said that, despite all that work, and despite the condemnation, which is still in place, she believes that the house will be saved. She added that the progress on the Allen house could serve as inspiration for owners of other properties in downtown.

Having a historic home on High Street of this caliber is such an asset, she said. Hopefully, others will see what the improvements do for the streetscape and will put some effort into making improvements to their properties. Even a little sprucing up makes a difference. The Allen house restoration is an incentive for other to do the same.

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