GALVESTON

Restoring a historic Winnie Street house has cost Angela Mainwaring hundreds of thousands of dollars and taken years, but has been a labor of love, the Midland resident said.

“Sometimes when I’m in Midland and I haven’t seen my house here for a few months, I think ‘why did I get into that?’” Mainwaring said. “But then, when I see it, I think ‘I love this house.’”

Mainwaring’s house is one of several that used to be on the Galveston Historical Foundation’s list of at-risk properties.

The time and money required could be the barrier keeping owners from restoring some historic structures, Galveston Historical Foundation President Dwayne Jones said.

The foundation each year publishes a list of culturally significant properties in the county at risk of being lost through neglect or of being torn down.

The Heritage at Risk list highlighted 16 properties for 2018, Jones said.

The list is meant to raise awareness about the potential losses. The foundation doesn’t have any authority to trigger rehabilitation of those properties, Jones said.

“There’s not always something that we can do,” Jones said. “In some cases, properties come up for sale and we purchase them. It just depends.”

Owners often have inherited the property from a relative, he said.

Many of these properties sit untended while numerous heirs argue about whether to sell, rent or remodel, Catherine Bendig said.

She owns a previously at-risk property at 2622 Ave. N, she said.

“I think that happens a lot in Galveston,” Bendig said. “It’s owned by a family and they can’t agree what to do with it. The house goes downhill.”

This type of situation is common, city Historic Preservation Officer Catherine Gorman said.

The city will issue code violations for the noncompliance associated with at-risk properties, but that’s standard, she said.

Families might let a property sit if they think they want to do something with it eventually or if they run out of money to renovate, Vera Green said.

Green is a retired historic home specialist from Frame Studio Inc. and owns 2024 Ave. K, which used to be on the at-risk list, she said.

“I can understand that many people would buy a historic house and do not understand how much it takes until you get into it,” Green said.

People may not want to sell if they live in the house or think they’ll eventually remodel, she said.

She’s spent $125,000 to renovate the 2,500-square-foot house above an estimated $80,000 the developer she bought it from invested, she said.

This type of price tag isn’t uncommon.

Bendig has spent more than $300,000 to renovate her Ave. N house and she’s saved by doing some labor herself, she said.

The time commitment also is substantial, said Mainwaring, owner of the 926 Winnie St. property.

She eventually wants to live in the house she bought in 2013, but that’s a long way off, she said.

“It has been wired and plumbed without the wiring or plumping being connected to anything you can use,” Mainwaring said.

But sometimes, property owners are just unreachable, Gorman said.

“We might cut the grass if we’re getting no responses,” Gorman said. “We might board up a structure. If we perform physical work, then we’ll put a lien on the property.”

Ultimately, the city will refer the property to the municipal court, which is very common, Gorman said.

Typically, those properties also owe taxes, which is handled at the county level, Gorman said.

The county works hard to find owners of properties owing taxes, but there’s currently more than 3,000 county properties that could be sold because of owed taxes, 2 percent of the tax roll, county Tax Assessor-Collector Cheryl Johnson said.

Preserving these structures is critical to local charm and tourist appeal, Bendig said.

“That’s part of the reason why Galveston is an attraction,” Bendig said.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

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(2) comments

Mark Stevens

Kudos to Ms. Mainwaring (SP?) for her labor of love.
And...there's a lesson for many people in this story. The reason heirs often bicker about inherited property is sometimes that the deceased owner did not leave a will with sufficient instructions or anticipation that property taxes would have to be paid. A common scenario is that heirs A, B and C are all to willing to take their cut of the sale or rental of a property, but are unwilling or unable to fork over to renovate...or pay taxes. When a property goes on the block for taxes, it will likely be bought by an investor who cannot rationally afford to spend money for "historic" restoration. It's called the economy...and human nature.
Mark W. Stevens

Tom Schwenk

Interesting article. Thankfully there are people who believe the rewards of rehabbing are priceless! Its great the City has the tax incentive program for those who renovate Landmarked homes or those in a Historic District depending on the amount of the renovation and the appraised value of the home. Because of The Heritiage at Risk list, there have been impressive renovations that are a gift for all of us Lucky enough to live by the Sea.

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