While discovering that Charlotte businessman Billy Maddalon had applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness to raze the historic 1913 VanLandingham House, I also learned that William Cecil had passed away in Asheville at 94. The grandson of George Washington Vanderbilt III who built the extraordinary 1890s Biltmore mansion in Asheville, Cecil had devoted much of his life to preserving this 8,000-acre mountain estate.
Granted, the VanLandingham property is not Biltmore, nor is Maddalon a Vanderbilt. Nevertheless, I was struck by how committed Cecil had been not only to the practical business of running the estate (which became enormously successful under his leadership), but to its stewardship. He had appreciated that Biltmore, as an historic landmark, belonged not only to his family but to the larger community as well.
Similarly, the grand VanLandingham House, though currently owned by Maddalon, is deeply rooted in the neighborhood. It commands the geographical heart of Plaza-Midwood and since 1913 has become part of its soul. The VanLandingham House is a locally designated historic landmark, which means that the community values its importance and has a stake in its preservation. Indeed, the city legally acknowledges the significance of local historic landmarks as community assets by granting owners generous annual tax breaks.
No one yet knows the fate of Maddalon’s business venture at the VanLandingham House, and he may ultimately decide not to tear down the house. But that should not be his decision to make.
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Mattson lives in Charlotte.