The historic Hugh Torance House and Store will receive badly needed maintenance with a nearly $19,000 contribution from the town of Huntersville.
Repairs to the structure, which dates to 1779, will include treating and sealing the crawl space, reconnecting ductwork, treating the house for wood-boring insects and rot – as well as repairing and reframing existing damage – while diverting drainage away from the structure’s foundation.
“This is one of the few historical treasures left standing in Mecklenburg County,” said Bill Russell, chairman of Hugh Torance House and Store Inc., the nonprofit organization that acts to preserve and restore the site.
The land and building are owned by the Banks family.
The board of directors, which Russell said consists of about a dozen active members, has been responsible for maintaining and operating the site at least since 1997 and, Russell said, they’ve faced many challenges.
“Some of it is just that it’s old,” he said. “Even if it’d been in continuous and pristine shape, it’d still need to have some repairs.”
The nearly $19,000 approved by the board at its Nov. 19 meeting is for one of two options prepared by Andrew Roby General Contractors. According to documentation provided to the board, the approved option is described as a 25-year fix, versus the 100-year fix that would cost an estimated $110, 550.
The long-term option would deal with foundation repairs and possibly adding 18 piers to reinforce existing and add structural support, Russell said.
“We didn’t really want to go to the town, but we don’t have the money. The Banks don’t have the money,” said Russell. “The property and taxes associated with (the house and store) belong to the Banks family. We have operational expenses like electricity and security.”
Russell said the board’s only funding sources are site admission fees, donations and grants – about $8,000 annually – that cover operations but wouldn’t be enough to cover the 100-year fix.
Now that Huntersville is donating money, which will come from the town’s hotel/motel fund balance, the house and store’s board will need to vote on when to start the repairs, Russell said, but he believes it will be in the next few weeks.
The house and store sit on a stone foundation and isn’t sealed against wildlife or the elements, said Russell.
“There are gaps, and you can literally have critters that can get under the house and do bad things to your HVAC.”
Russell said there are some things they can’t repair or improve because of historical commission criteria. “Sometimes it doesn’t even come down to cost, but commission rules,” said Russell.
“You can’t change the structure of the house.”
At the Nov. 19 meeting, board member and Mayor Pro Tem Sarah McAuley proposed a substitute motion that would require Hugh Torance House and Store Inc. to obtain grant money, with the help of the town, and pay the funds back into a revolving fund for other local historic preservation.
Her motion failed, but McAuley said there are other historic places in Huntersville facing immediate financial and repair needs, just as the house and store are.
“Historic site preservation is a very expensive undertaking,” she said. “If we’d set that up as a revolving preservation fund, we could have participated with other historic sites in and around Huntersville that found they had an immediate need.”
Board member Danny Phillips was the lone “no” vote for giving the funds to Hugh Torance, but clarified it wasn’t because he doesn’t value the historic site. In fact, he said, he may be joining their board of directors.
“We need to take more of a proactive (stance) trying to raise funds of ourselves. … Look at other options, not just write a check,” said Phillips. “A lot of people just don’t know of the need. I think a lot of times private companies and residents wouldn’t hesitate to donate money, it’s just getting the word out and starting.”
Phillips said if he does join the board of directors for Hugh Torance House and Store, public awareness and fundraising will be two of his priorities.
“It’s a matter of education and making people aware.”