Walley Morse, the commission’s secretary, called the demolition of the house at 137 N. Poplar St. shameful.“It is a trend that has been going along in Greenville for a long time,” he said. “It’s such a shame to be seeing those great old buildings being torn down for proposed future development that never gets done.”
The Finlay House was the property of the South Delta Regional Housing Authority, which purchased the house from Hank Burdine, of Greenville.
A local construction contractor, Burdine said he not only lived in it, but spent years renovating the home, trying to keep its post-civil war and Italian-styled architecture preserved.
SDRHA Executive Director Ann Jefferson said her organization had the house demolished because of complaints of vandalism and crime that the run-down building was attracting.
Jefferson added that SDRHA was issued a permit from the city of Greenville to destroy the house.“If the house was a historical landmark,” Jefferson said, “Do you think the city of Greenville would have issued us a permit? This doesn’t make any sense. If it was a historical landmark, wouldn’t the city of Greenville have known about it?”
Calls to the city of Greenville’s Permits and Planning Department were directed to the department’s director, Carlon Williams, who was not in.
But a quick Internet search does reveal the Finlay House to be listed on the National Register of Historical Houses. Benjy Nelken, curator of the Greenville History Museum, said he believes the house dated back to the 1870s.The prominent Finlay family of Greenville, who owned several drugstores in Greenville for many years, lived in the house and owned it at a Shelby Street location.
The house, Nelken said, became apartments in the 1950s, with tenants renting the upstairs and the downstairs as separate units. The house was sold to SRDHA by Burdine, who himself purchased the house to save it from demolition and moved it to the Poplar Street location.
Burdine said he sold the house to the SDRHA because he believed that SDRHA would make sure the house was properly maintained.
“I said to myself, ‘Here is an organization that has the wherewithal and the integrity — and I emphasized integrity — to keep it going.” But he said in the 1990s he noticed the house was deteriorating. Subsequently, he helped the SDRHA find several people who were willing to purchase the house. But they were all turned down.
Burdine said three weeks ago he noticed that workers had boarded up the house and that dumpster trucks were parked close to it.“I told those workers that if they don’t restore this house, if the allow it to fall, it would have a better faith burning down,” Burdine said. “They took a piece of my heart with that house.”
Jefferson said no one has ever approached her during her 2-year stint at SDRHA to buy the house. “We were willing to give it away and couldn’t,” Jefferson said.
Another prime example of why Greenville is dying... we have no respect for our history. Throughout the Delta, towns are trying to preserve their history and capitalize on a bygone era, but NOT Greenville!
The statement that Jefferson made about not being able to give it away, certainly rings true. The sad reality is that if you have a house anywhere in Greenville that you are trying to sell, you are in trouble.