Demo dodger: Moon-Henderson house to see many moons

onarch-savedhouse-facadeAfter years of neglect, the circa-1883 Moon-Henderson House at 10 1/2 Street NW is finally being restored. PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER

Last November, local publisher Bill Chapman appealed a decision by the Board of Architectural Review to Charlottesville City Council, denying his demolition request for the Moon-Henderson House, a circa-1883 structure at 10 1/2 Street NW, and one of the few remnants of a once thriving African-American neighborhood along West Main. Chapman, who purchased the building with a partner in 2003, explained that it wasn't financially feasible to preserve.

"I was hoping to renovate it into office/retail, assuming that Atwood’s building next door gave some life to the street," said Chapman, referring to architect Bill Atwood's plan to develop the near-by Under the Roof space, "but the cost estimate was over $300,000. Hard to make that work for a 1400-square foot building." Chapman also explained that there was no room for an addition due to small lot size and required setbacks.

It wasn't the first time the BAR had to come to Moon-Henderson's defense. In 1997 and 1999, previous owners had also sought to have it demolished, but each time the BAR said no. Last November, City Council said no, too, telling Chapman it was an "historic treasure" and that they were "bothered" that it had been allowed to deteriorate due to neglect.

"Old buildings like this one, set in its original location, provide tangible evidence of Charlottesville's history," says City preservation planner Mary Joy Scala.

"I was not surprised by the BAR and Council decisions," said Chapman. "Why make an unpopular decision when there is a process in place to let the market decide its fate?"

Council's decision forced Chapman to put the house on the market, which he did for its assessed value of $184,800. Per zoning regulations, if no one purchased it within a year, Chapman would be able to move ahead with the demolition.

Enter Preston Coiner. In March, the ex-scrap-yard owner purchased the building from Chapman and plans on restoring it within the next 6 to 9 months, leasing out its six rooms as office space.

Unlike Chapman, the former BAR member thinks he can restore the property and turn a profit. But, as Chapman pointed out, won't it be too expensive?

"It might be," Coiner laughs, hinting at some possible altruism in the purchase– there is sign fastened to the building with the motto "working today to save yesterday for tomorrow."– "but we're going to be very careful about how we spend money."

"I'm very happy that the property was sold to someone who is protecting and rehabilitating the building," says Scala. "Preston is a real hero." Chapman, too, says he's pleased that Coiner will finally be restoring the old house.

Coiner, who bought the house under his Curtis-Alexander LLC for $184,800, says its not the first time he's restored an old property.

"We restored an 1840s house in Scottsville that was in the same condition," he says, "which was pretty rough."

Indeed, Coiner says the house has been unoccupied and rotting for at least the last eight years, and has been a refuge for the homeless. He expects there will be a lot of "internal mysteries" to unravel as construction moves along, and some reconstructive work like re-pointing the bricks and restoring the original windows, plus the BAR will govern everything that will be done to the exterior.

"It will be a very nice building when we're finished," says Coiner.

1 comment

If Mr. Coiner does to this house what he did to the Tavern in Scottsville, it will be a premier example of what a determined individual can do to save what most people seem to be destroying these days. He has vision and I thank him for using it for the betterment of our community.