The Historic Landmark Preservation Board voted to remove the historic property from the city's Historic Landmarks list, though not without difficulty.
A piece of Ormond Beach history hangs in the balance.
The John Anderson Lodge, located at 71 Orchard Lane, is one of the few remaining connections to Hotel Ormond. Located on the east side of Orchard Lane, land Anderson bought when he arrived, the cottage was built for hotel employees to use. Stories say John Anderson threw parties in the lodge, which is built on pilings and features vertical palm tree siding.
But the lodge is long past its heyday. The wood is rotted and full of termites. Sunshine creeps in from holes in the roof and siding. The original floors are gone in part of the house — and the mismatched parquet tiles in the more recent additions resemble a checkerboard pattern.
It's a neglect that didn't overnight, and is likely a couple decades in the making. Owner Shed Roberson bought the property in 2017 for $150,000, hoping to help preserve it. Born and raised in Ormond Beach, Roberson lives in a historic property himself, and his mother has helped saved a handful of historic homes herself, including Talahloko and the Emmons Cottage.
“Genetically, I’ve been cursed or blessed with saving historic homes," Roberson said. "And that was my heart and my intent from the get-go with this house — was to save this house.”
The city's Historic Landmark Preservation Board met on Monday, July 15, to decide whether or not to remove the John Anderson Lodge from the local Historic Landmarks list in the city's Land Development Code. On May 29, city staff declared the lodge an unsafe structure. Roberson then could either repair it, or demolish it.
He is seeking to demolish it. In front of the board, Roberson was visibly emotional as he explained he'd had long talks with his family about the property.
“It’s gotten to the point where I have no choice," Roberson said. "It is beyond repair.”
Seeing as being part of the city's Historic Landmarks list is a voluntary act, the Board approved Roberson's request, though not without difficulty.
“When we take something like that off the list, we’re setting a precedent," Board Chair Dr. Philip Shapiro said. "There are other sites and structures that are old, need remediation, and I’m not always certain where that dividing line is that we say ‘it’s too far gone,’ as compared to ‘it’s worth the investment.’”
Could we save it?
Roberson told the board he'd exhausted every avenue he knew of to try to save the house. He explored leaving the original footprint, but the house has foundation problems. He was told by a contractor that the house would need to be airlifted by a truck — hoping the walls and roof don't collapse while doing so — and maintained in the air as the foundation is repaired. Then, the house would need to be placed back down on the new structure, but that there was a chance it could collapse then as well.
“The termites are holding it together — and that’s to be nice,” Roberson said.
The city's Chief Building Official Tom Griffith said he, the fire chief and city engineer checked out the house. He doesn't believe the structure could hold if airlifted, and said he believes perhaps only the roof would be able to be lifted. In terms of saving the John Anderson Lodge, he said extensive repairs would need to take place.
Shapiro asked about making replica walls and Griffith said the city would have to look into that.
“You would have to replace the whole house," Griffith said.
City Senior Planner Laureen Kornel and Assistant City Attorney Ann-Margret Emery told the board that it wasn't deciding whether or not to tear down the lodge, just whether it should be removed from the Historic Landmarks list.
“That is not within this board’s discretion to really even comment on the demolition, because the board is not reviewing that in the form of a public hearing the way we traditionally would, because of the unsafe structure clause in the land development code," Kornel said.
Two residents also spoke at the meeting, one of whom was Andrew Miller. He said the lodge is long gone, and possibly the only feature that could be saved is a chimney.
“It’s a negative for our street, unfortunately," Miller said.
Board member Suzanne Heddy had questions about the potential sale of the property. In front of the lodge, a sign with Roberson's realty company is shown as pending. She asked whether the demolition was part of the contract, but Roberson said he couldn't speak about it.
However, local billionaire and former Brown & Brown CEO J. Hyatt Brown also spoke during the meeting, where he revealed he was prospective buyer. He said one of his sons has always admired Orchard Lane, and that when his son, who is currently in Africa, decides to come back home, he would like to have a home there.
If the demolition goes through, Brown said he and his wife will buy the property and transfer it to their son. A home characteristic of the historic street would be built.
Heddy mourned the potential loss of the John Anderson lodge.
“The street is becoming gentrified," Heddy said.
Shapiro responded that clocks move forward, and not back.
“This is very difficult," Shapiro said. "This is a major contributing structure in our history. We made the choice we had to make.”
The removal of the property from the Historic Landmarks list will reach the planning board on Aug. 8, and the City Commission hearings are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 10 and 24.