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Posted November 20, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Holtzman to raze historic Nelson house

By Alex Bridges

MOUNT JACKSON -- Holtzman Corporation plans to raze a historic home on its property to build new offices.

The decision came after the company tried for years to give away the house at 5522 N. Main St., next to its headquarters, owner and President Bill Holtzman said Tuesday.

"Our problem is we're running out of space and if we don't want to pick up and move the whole company, we've gotta expand," Holtzman said. "That's the only place we can go with our office and the people that had it knew that."

Holtzman pointed out that 80 people work in the company office building.

"It's unfortunate but it's something that has to go because we have as many as four people in offices that were meant for one," Holtzman added. "We are literally bulging at the seams."

A contractor recently began work to remove asbestos from the building -- a necessary step in advance of the demolition. Crews took windows out of the house because the caulking contained asbestos, Holtzman said. They also had to remove asbestos from pipes in the basement.

Holtzman said he hopes to have the building razed by the end of fall and begin construction in the spring to open the new office space by this time next year. Plans call for the construction of a wing to connect the new space with the existing building.

"We're trying to build a building that has a colonial look to it," Holtzman said. "It won't be a modern-looking building. We've gone through some books and looked at colonial houses. We've tried to make it look like a colonial house that's an office building.

"We think it will be pretty attractive," Holtzman added.

Holtzman said the company is in the process of getting the approval to have the building demolished. Staff with the Shenandoah County Building Inspections Office said Tuesday they did not have an application for a demolition permit on file for the property.

The company plans to construct a new, four-story office building on the site of the house, Holtzman said. Assistant Town Manager Charles "Charlie" Moore said Wednesday that officials approved the master development plan showing the company's future expansion on the site.

The company did try to save the historic building by selling it or finding a taker who could move it off the property, Holtzman noted.

"We have tried everywhere to give it away," Holtzman said.

Sonny Bowman looked at the house and considered moving the structure to a lot he owned, Holtzman added. But the cost to relocate the power lines would likely exceed the value of the house, he said. Holtzman also offered the house to a Mennonite group from Pennsylvania, but they, too, turned it down.

"A lot of people said 'oh, yeah, I'd love to have it,'" Holtzman said. "But, when it came time, they all said 'no, we can't take it.'"

Holtzman also asked companies to look at the house to see if they had interest in taking any of the roofing tiles or the eight, curved beams on the outside that carry the soffit.

"I thought there might be some value for somebody who was rebuilding a house," Holtzman said. "If somebody wants some of it, we're going to give it to them."

The company has found no takers for portions of the house, Holtzman said.

Mount Jackson resident Gerald Forsburg tried for years to find a new owner for the house who could take and preserve the structure. Forsburg is founder and principal designer of his own company with a background in architecture and urban planning. The house was designed in the Spanish-mission style by a Roanoke architect for Burgess Nelson and built in 1912, Forsburg states on his blog.

Forsburg said by email this week that he has expressed interest in preserving the house and has made that known to Holtzman in the past.

"Mr. Holtzman is a pretty reasonable person and cares a great deal about the community. I'm sure if he has the option to keep the history here, whether by moving the house or through allowing it to be salvaged, he will," Forsburg states in an email.

While the house is more than 100 years old, Holtzman said it lacks some of the design features seen in other homes in town, such as the one owned by his son, Town Councilman Todd Holtzman.

"It's a pretty old house," Bill Holtzman said. "It's not as elegant as you might think. There was nothing special about the inside.

"We're going to tear it down and haul it away," Holtzman added. "It was a house that was built to look super-good on the outside and they cut a lot of corners."

Holtzman bought the house about 10 years ago for $300,000.

Real estate information from the Commissioner of the Revenue's office shows the house has an assessed value of $154,000. The 2,992-square-foot house was last assessed in 2010. The building sits on the large, single parcel that contains the Holtzman offices and other structures.

"When I bought the house I thought it was in pretty good shape 'cause it looks pretty good from the outside," Holtzman said.

The inside tells a different story: a crumbling basement and a leaky roof.

Holtzman said the basement is "turning to sand" because the builders did not use enough cement. Holtzman claims the previous owners treated the basement walls to hide the condition.

"The concrete is crumbling and, at some point, the house will not survive," Holtzman said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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