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Yellow House Finds New Home

Planning begins on how to move the historic yellow house to save it from demolition.

Another passage will be added to the pages of the Yellow House's history book within the next few months as developers plan to move the house that dates back to the 1800s.

Not its first move, the house is scheduled to be relocated a few hundred yards away from its current location behind the Adams-Green Funeral home where it faces the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

"This house predates to the turn of the century," said Carol Bruce, Town Council member and vice president of the Herndon Historical Society. "It originally sat facing Elden Street."

Because of the history tied to the house, Bruce and other members of the historical society and community have worked hard to ensure the house would not be torn down because of its lack of occupancy.

The building once served as a school house in the late 1800s and briefly housed the Fortnightly Club Library after a fire, according to a March 2005 summary of the history of the yellow house property by Rebekah Wood, Herndon Historical Society member.

Currently owned by Cathryn and Chris Adams of the Adams-Green Funeral home, the house now sits vacant on the Adams' property.

In January 2003 Chris Adams sent an application to the Herndon Preservation Review Board for a demolition permit to tear down the house and replace it with a much needed parking lot. That application was deferred to a meeting in February 2004, where it was rejected.

The Adamses appealed the rejection and lost, giving them one year to decide what they wanted to do with the house.

On April 1, 2004 they listed the house at $775,000 through McGrath Real Estate Services, hoping someone would purchase the house and possibly even move it.

After more than one year on the market and with no interested buyers, the Adamses can now legally demolish the house under the agreement with the town.

But, because council members and some in the community did not want to see the house demolished, an agreement was tentatively reached with Adams to wait a little longer to see if the house could be saved.

Mayor Michael O'Reilly appointed a committee headed by Bruce to determine what, if anything, could be done to save the house.

After running through a list of options, it was determined the best option would be to relocate the house from the Adams' property. The next question became: how easy would it be to move the old house? said Bruce.

"MY FIRST THOUGHT was Steve Mitchell," said Bruce when the plan to move the house was devised. "Because Steve Mitchell has moved two homes in the past, I thought if anybody could figure this out, Steve could."

Within the last few months Bruce and Mitchell met with Tim McGrath, representing the Adamses, to determine a plan of action.

At the same time Stanley Martin Properties had an application before the town to develop the land where the Herndon Lumber site use to be.

Because Mitchell determined the house was moveable, the council members were able, through numerous conversations, to work out an agreement with Stanley Martin planners to allow the house to placed on a separate parcel of land alongside of the recently approved development. Although the company will not move the house, it has agreed to bring the necessary utilities to the land including sewer, running water and electricity.

Although finding a place to move the house went relatively quickly, the next problem before the committee was getting the house from its current location to the new lot.

Jack and Joan Guth are the listed owners of a lot that the house will have to be moved through to get to its new location at the north end of Pearl Street, said O'Reilly.

After speaking with Joan Guth about the move, she realized all the factors involved with the relocation — including the town's vacation of Pearl Street near her property — would give her the opportunity to subdivide her lot, something she had wanted to do for some time, said O'Reilly.

Although some of her trees would be lost, there would be a plan to replant them, he said.

"This really is a win, win, win for all parties involved," O'Reilly said.

DURING ITS SEPT. 13 public hearing, the council voted 6 to 1, with Ann Null opposing, in favor of a contract that would begin the process of moving the house.

Although the approval of the contract and the Stanley Martin application to develop the lumber site occurred last week, Bruce and Mitchell are still hesitant to get excited about the move because there are still many tentative plans.

Technically the Adamses could demolish the house by law anytime, said McGrath. The family has been more than hospitable over the last year and have been burdened because they have not had full use of their property while the house has sat vacant, he said.

Because the town has promised the house would be moved within the next few months the Adamses are staying patient and will not tear it down, said McGrath.

"This house is not a hot commodity," he said about the lack of interest the house received while on the market. "It's got an outdated design for a house, it's going to cost more to move it than it's worth."

Aware that the house needs a lot of work, it would most likely be auctioned off by the town and the prospective buyer could add a modern addition to the back, said Bruce.

Before being auctioned the town would create specific criteria regarding renovations for the house, making sure the historic character is maintained, she said.

The money earned during the auction would go back to the town to pay for the move of the house. Because the lot alone is projected to be around $300,000 to $325,000 with the connected utilities, repaying the town for the move would not be a problem, said Mitchell.

But before they get ahead of themselves, the committee is aware of the already expired clock on the historic structure.

"The Adamses have waited an awfully long time," said O'Reilly about the family's cooperation with the town. "We needed to get this agreement going to get the process started."