New plan to save one of Monroe’s oldest homes

The Laney-Lee House in Monroe. It dates to 1858.
The Laney-Lee House in Monroe. It dates to 1858. abell@charlotteobserver.com

There’s a new plan to save one of the oldest houses in Monroe.

A student housing developer said Thursday she is negotiating with a Monroe church to purchase and move the Laney-Lee House, which stands at 202 E Windsor St. and dates to 1858.

Shannon King hopes to buy the house from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for a nominal fee and then spend several hundred thousand dollars to relocate it nearby and fix it up. The city is considering donating land for the move.

King owns King Residential Group in Charlotte and wants to use the Laney-Lee House as her new office.

Last fall, downtown Monroe neighbors were upset to learn that the church had received city approval to demolish the house. They launched a Facebook campaign to save the structure, one of the last antebellum houses left in Monroe.

St. Paul’s is adjacent to the house it received as a donation in 1989. The two-story, 4,635-square-foot house was used as a rectory until 2008, and has been vacant since then.

The church has said demolition was just one option for the site, which might be used as a garden where people could mediate if the house is gone.

Dick Brainard, a church vestry board member, said negotiations are continuing but nothing is finalized. When asked if he was hopeful a deal could be finalized, he said, “We’ve been hopeful before but then again we’ve been disappointed before.”

King remains optimistic.

A Monroe resident, she said she was driving in the city with a friend a couple months ago scouting places to relocate her office when her friend mentioned “this beautiful old house that was going to be torn down.”

At a meeting this week, Monroe’s city council set up a committee to meet with King and discuss terms of a potential transfer of city-owned property on Windsor Street that could contain the house.

Such a transfer would be part of Monroe’s effort to save the Laney-Lee House, councilman Lynn Keziah said at the meeting.

“This is not a city giveaway,” he said. “It is the city of Monroe partnering with a local business to save a historical property.”

King said she saw an opportunity to save the house and get “a lovely structure” for an office. The church would get what it wants by removing the house from its property, King said, and the city would see a tax-exempt parcel return to the tax rolls.

“I’m very optimistic” a deal can be worked out, she said.

The house was built for A.A. Laney, a cotton planter and merchant who was Monroe’s mayor in 1865. His daughter later lived in the house with her husband, George Lee, and the couple expanded and remodeled the home.

Adam Bell: 704-358-5696, @abell