MINNEAPOLIS - Minneapolis resident Nicole Curtis made a name for herself restoring historic homes to their former glory, but Wednesday the star of the cable show "Rehab Addict" ran into a situation she couldn't fix.
"To me, this is a funeral," said Curtis.
The home preservationist stood in the way of a wrecking crew as it tried to tear down an 1889 Victorian home at 1925 Park Avenue South in Minneapolis.
"We had 35 beautiful mansions on Park Avenue. Eight are left. This is what our city was built on. This house was all handcrafted on site," she said through tears. "We've tried to buy it. We tried to move it, and we've offered the owners every viable solution you can think of. I have pretty much bet every last dollar I have to save this house."
She said the owner, listed on Hennepin County property records as Robert M. Anderson, refused her offer. The home was already slated for demolition and she says she had no way to appeal the teardown.
We reached the son of the owner on Wednesday evening by phone. Barry Anderson responded to Curtis' protest in an email to KARE 11.
"There was never a written offer or purchase agreement, but we did try to GIVE her the building for over a month. My father was given a specific amount of days after purchasing the property by a council member to have it torn down. Time ran out," wrote Anderson. "Today's appearance by her was an attempt to garner attention to herself and will undoubtedly be used on her show. It makes me sad to see that by bringing her fans to the Minneapolis City Council that they would cower to her in any way. What does that say about our city leadership?"
As a bulldozer made a swipe into the home, Curtis ran inside to force the operator to stop. Neighbors cried in sorrow, while some rejoiced.
"We don't want crack houses on our block we are fed up with it. If this is the only way to solve it, to get the house out of here, then it's what we are going to do," said Chris Hannon, a homeowner and realtor who lobbied to rid the house from the neighborhood. "There was so much devastation in this community because of what was going on in this house we were getting shot at."
Curtis backed away when the police arrived and threatened arrests, but she held vigil on the sidewalk, watching the original woodwork, wood floors and tiled fireplaces fall to dust. Flanked by supporters, she vowed to fight for the other historic homes in Minneapolis that could face the same fate.
"This house was a shining example of old world architecture here in Minneapolis, but it was just boarded. That was its only crime," said Curtis. "This is what happens when we elect people into our city that allow signoffs on demolition without neighborhood hearings and without worrying what we are doing to our city planning."
Minneapolis City Council member Gary Schiff, who heads the city's zoning and planning committee, says Curtis has valid complaints about the city's demolition process, which he calls flawed. Schiff says when a homeowner orders demolition, there is no public notice process. Neighbors or opponents have 10 days to appeal the demolition, but Schiff says it rarely happens, because the city doesn't notify anyone.
He says he hopes to improve what is a gap in the city process, otherwise other historic homes could be at risk.
Anderson was not present at the demolition, but had choice words for Curtis in his email.
"The most vile person I have ever met. I was and am an inner-city landlord for over 20 years. That is saying a lot," he wrote.
Curtis said the Andersons have caused her much distress and were disrespectful to her from the beginning.
Minneapolis city spokesperson Matt Lindstrom says the home was owned by the George H. Hoit company.
He said after looking at the home, city staff determined that the home had "no particular associations with significant events, people, city/neighborhood identity, architecture, master craftsmen, landscape designs, or development patterns."
Lindstrom says city staff also determined that there were better examples of Hoit's work still left in the city such as the Harry Legg House at 1601 Park Avenue, designated as a Minneapolis landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and 1923 Park Avenue.
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