LACONIA — With time running short to spare the Hathaway House from the wrecking ball, the Heritage Commission last evening decided to seek a private developer or investor willing to take ownership of the building and move it to another location in the city.
Pam Clark, who chairs the commission, explained that Greg Nolan of Cafua Management Company, the owner of the building at 106 Union Ave., has assured city officials that "the building is ours if we can move it." She said that Nolan, who now has a permit to demolish the historic mansion in hand, has granted the commission "a reasonable window of opportunity" to relocate the building, which she understands to be "three or four months."
The home was built in 1870 by Samuel C. Clark, a prominent attorney in Lakeport, then known as Lake Village.
Last month Maggie Stier of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance and Steve Bedard of Bedard Preservation of Gilmanton estimated the cost of moving and renovating the building would fall between $563,400 and $751,200, adding "our estimate for a building of this age, type and condition would be at the higher end of that range." The estimates excluded the cost of a new lot for the building.
Stier and Bedard concluded that "in our estimation, savings this building by moving it to a new location and investing more than half a million dollars in its rehabilitation is not a viable proposition at this time."
Meanwhile, Sarah Anderson, the Gilford teenager who led the effort to reconstruct the Gilford Outing Club warming hut, was not convinced. She told the commission that after speaking with the utility companies and a building mover she pegged the cost of moving the Hathaway House to a lot at 903 Union Avenue at approximately $300,000, including the price of the lot. The half-acre lot with an assessed value of $39,100 is owned by local attorney Phil Brouillard, who has offered it to the commission for $160,000.
"He is very firm about the price," said Clark, who explained that the lot would have to be excavated and a foundation poured to accommodate the building. Brouillard assured her there would be sufficient parking for 30 vehicles. Alternatively, Anderson suggested that a buyer could float the Hathaway House across Paugus Bay and relocated on a lot at South Down Shores or Long Bay.
Anderson went on to sketch a fundraising campaign to fund the project. She said that she had already spoken with a number of prospective tenants of the Hathaway House, including one who wanted to operate a museum and library on the ground floor, who would contribute to the effort.
However, Clark asked "realistically, can we raise $300,000 in the next three months" and answered "no". She said that apart from moving and relocating the building there is the issue of ownership, noting that "the city does not want to own this building."
The alternative, Clark said, is to find a developer or investor interested not only in moving and renovating the Hathaway House but also managing and maintaining the property. She proposed asking the city attorney to enter a formal agreement with Cafua that would enable to the commission to issue a "request for proposals" (RFP) offering the Hathaway House to a private party on the understanding that they would move it, restore it, preserve it and own it.
Clark proposed issuing an RFP in May with a deadline for responses in June. "If we don't get any replies," she said, "the handwriting is on the wall. When is enough going to be enough?"
Stier and Bedard doubted that a private party would undertake the project, noting that they would be dissuaded by "the gap between rehab costs and actual or future real estate value. In our estimation," they continued, "the numbers simply don't add up. Be practical and realistic," they advised. "Recognize that not everything can be saved."