LETTER- Demolishers must explain

The Beta House, doomed by the new Jefferson Scholars building.

Dave McNair's December 6 article, "Demo dilemma: When is an old house worth saving?" notes, "[VMDO Architects partner Robert] Moje points out that restoring the Compton House as part of the larger Jefferson Scholars Foundation project simply didn't make practical sense given the condition of the building and the scope of the new project."

If Mr. Moje, speaking for the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, is confident of his arguments against preserving the Compton House, why is he arguing them to the Hook and not before Charlottesville City Council?

On September 17, Mayor David Brown and Council made $3 million in a subsidized loan to the Foundation contingent on the soundness of such arguments, and agreed to wait to hear them. By surrendering to an interview with the Hook, Mr. Moje risks nothing but likewise gains the Scholars not a dime. Reporting to Council invites wide public scrutiny (and detailed challenge from experts in building preservation and restoration, federal and state rehabilitation tax credits, and historic preservation easements) but could also win financial rewards for the Foundation– rewards that it once considered so vital that the Scholars troubled both Council and the County Supervisors to secure them.

McNair continues, "And he [Mr. Moje] bristles at the continuing 'knee-jerk' reaction of some preservationists– particularly the idea that demolishing the house is a crime."

Preservation Piedmont sent to each Board member of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation a letter courteously laying out in detail the benefits of renovating the Compton House– almost certainly eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register– and incorporating it into the new campus. The Foundation is welcome to publish the whole of that letter so that a candid world may better compare the alleged reflexive extremism of our volunteer preservationists to the objectivity of the Foundation's compensated representatives.

Brian C. Broadus, AIA
President, Preservation Piedmont#