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Sunday feature: The tale of two houses in Wellington

by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — Fifteen years ago, the conditions of two Wellington Victorian-type houses were similar – extremely poor.

One house was located at 224 South F. The other was at 721 West Harvey. Both were dilapidated and decaying and both had captured the attention of the Wellington City Councils for possible condemnation.

Karl with Jana Braddick

Karl with Jana Braddick

Today, the house on F Street has seen its demise, flattened this week with an excavator.

The other house at Harvey is one of beauty now on the National Register of Historic Places – thanks to the vision of one man: Karl Braddick.

Braddick and his late wife Jana moved to Wellington in 2002. Jana, who grew up in Arkansas City, was gravely ill and wanted to spend her last days on this earth near her parents, who were living in South Haven. They both decided to move to Wellington.

Karl likes to restore things – most certainly houses. And he saw two houses that could be restored.

Both Wellington houses were described as “Queen Anne” Victorian style houses. Queen Anne style architecture was the rage in the late 19th and early 20th Century that were to reflect the style of buildings built during the Queen Anne era, who reigned over Great Britain from 1702 to 1714.

House at 224 South F earlier last week.

House at 224 South F earlier last week.

Braddick said he had approached Randall Jones, owner of the building on 224 South F, and asked about buying it. Jones refused to sell. Braddick looked elsewhere, and purchased the property at 721 West Harvey.

“Quite honestly, the condition of both houses were terrible,” Braddick said. “That house I restored was as bad as the one on South F – no doubt about it.”

He purchased the property in 2003. In the next 14 months, it became a time-consuming labor of love process. He brought up two of his construction workers from Dallas to help rebuild, and used local contractors with the electricity and plumbing.

After he was finished, he had one of the premiere homes in Wellington.

Today, the house is known as the Henry Freemont Smith House in history restoration circles. It was built approximately in 1886 as a one story home before H.F. Smith and his wife purchased it in 1887. The couple made it into a two-story home by 1896. Today the house is 3,800 square feet of beauty with its soft yellow painted exterior – trimmed in white and accented with black forest green and cedar fish scale shingles.

See full history of house here: http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/07000318.pdf

Restored house at 721 West Harvey.

Restored house at 721 West Harvey.

Braddick said he purchased the house and property for $50,000 and then put in $250,000 in it with labor.

“And I can’t seem to sell it,” Braddick said exasperatingly from his home in Dallas. “I just found someone to lease it, which I hope turns into a sale. But I would be really surprised if I get $250,000 for it. Getting $250,000 for something that cost me $300,000 isn’t a very good investment.”

Braddick has also bought a house on North B and purchased and refurbished the Glasco building downtown. He’s hoping to get all three structures sold. He has moved back to his native area in Dallas and is restoring a house there. It has been five years since the death of his wife. Braddick is ready to move on.

Perhaps, when hearing Braddick’s story and that of the city’s struggle with the property owner at 224 South F — see story here — it is understandable how difficult it would be for lightning to strike twice. It is probably not too far fetched to generalize that there are historical structures throughout the nation that are seeing its demise, because of various circumstances.

Several people have contacted Sumner Newscow questioning why some material was not salvaged from the South F structure – such as the windows with small stain glass, or the unique trim, or possibly historically valued door knobs inside. Wellington City Economic Director Cody Sims said the city was not going to partially salvage anything from the house in an interview Wednesday. There was a liability with people getting on the property because the structure was so unsound.

Wellington City Manager Gus Collins said in a memo to the city council more than a week ago said:

“The city has never during my term as City Manager, salvaged any portion of a dwelling. I am not recommending that we enter into the auction/salvaging business; however, I have received many requests/inquiries from citizens to “salvage” this dwelling. Due to the history of this property, perhaps we should consider. It would be my recommendation that the Demolition Contractor coordinate with any interested citizens.”

The item was discussed at a work session meeting on Monday, but no action by the council was taken. Sumner Newscow was unable to attend that meeting.

The house at 224 South F was originally built in 1900 by J.E. Kramer, who was the President of Farmers State Bank in Wellington.

The house at 224 South F was originally built in 1900 by J.E. Kramer, who was the President of Farmers State Bank in Wellington.

Braddick, when hearing about it Saturday, expressed dismay.

“Oh, my goodness, there is a lot of money being left on the table there,” Braddick said. “Those stain glass windows would have been worth quite a bit of money. Those huge columns should have been salvaged.”

He said he had no idea the condition of the trim was, but he guessed it could have fetched for some significant bucks.

But historical preservation is not an exact science, and sometimes it is about dumb luck.

For there were two dilapidated century-old Queen Anne homes in the 1990s in Wellington – whose fortunes took dramatic turns. One was torn down this week. The other stands as a monument of one’s vision.

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