Saving Properties With a Rich Past

Four real estate pros show how the Power of R can save treasured local history.

July 16, 2014

Historic homes and structures frequently face long odds to survive. Whether it’s developers eyeing historically significant sites for new construction or neglected properties facing demolition in low-income neighborhoods, the threats to older properties are ever-present. REALTORS® are often at the forefront of the movement to showcase and preserve their area’s historical treasures.

A Mound With Native Roots

Leigh Maibes, an agent with RE/MAX Results, helped save one of St. Louis’ most historically significant structures: the city’s last standing Native American mound, which is some 2,000 years old. The Sugarloaf Mound, which included a small house, was put up for sale in 2009. Maibes, the listing agent, says the clients “had nothing but preservation in mind” for the land when considering a buyer, so she contacted local media outlets and the Landmarks Association of St. Louis to spread the word about Sugarloaf’s history. The exposure led to the swift purchase by the Osage Nation tribe, which has used the property for ceremonial purposes and plans to build an educational center there.

Maintaining Neighborhood Pride

In some inner-city neighborhoods in Nashville, Tenn., historic homes are falling apart. “In these low-income neighborhoods, home owners have passed homes down through generations, but they haven’t been able to keep up the maintenance,” says Mark Deutschmann, CRS, GRI, the CEO of Village Real Estate Services. Deutschmann’s company has teamed up with local community groups to rehab the historic Nashville neighborhood of Chestnut Hill, where many homes date back to the 1930s. Village has raised $475,000 to put toward fixing up the homes with energy-efficient upgrades. “In the spirit of community building, we can make life better for people here,” Deutschmann says.

On Her Soapbox

Amanda Nagle, an agent with Century 21 Signature Real Estate in Des Moines, Iowa, says she’s always on her soapbox about historic homes. “You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been,” she says. Nagle is starting a walking tour of historic homes in the Des Moines neighborhood of Beaverdale this fall. The tour, which she is developing with the neighborhood’s public affairs office, will feature such properties as the “treehouse,” a home built in 1916—literally around a tree. “It comes down to me just trying to educate people,” she says.

Taking on Teardowns

In affluent Needham, Mass., developers have been rapidly tearing down older homes to replace them with bigger, pricier ones. Sandy Tobin, GRI, a Coldwell Banker agent, has long led an effort as part of the Needham Historical Commission to slow the pace of the demolitions, which threatened the town’s character. She pushed to expand the list of “historically significant” homes from 80 to 125. “Once a property is on the list, it is subject to a six-month demolition delay,” Tobin says. The commission is considering extending the delay period to a year. Tobin hopes the changes will give builders pause in their pursuit of teardowns.

Graham Wood
Executive Editor of Digital Media

Graham Wood is Executive Editor of Digital Media for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at