Hillcrest neighborhood organizing to prevent demolition of historic homes

Hillcrest neighborhood organizing to prevent demolition of historic homes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- A small-town community in a city setting; Hillcrest has been a favorite for homeowners since the turn of the century, but many neighbors are concerned its future is in jeopardy.

As homes age, residents, and the city are faced with how to preserve the area's history, while also making sure it is still desirable. In 1916, when Pulaski Heights became Hillcrest, there were only about a dozen homes in the area.

For the next twenty years or so, bosses of industry, their employees, and everywhere in between started building bungalows that became the fabric of the neighborhood, which was eventually placed on the National Register. The future of those homes, and some say of the neighborhood's historic standing, is in danger as homes fall to disrepair.

Neighbors said it is time to Save Hillcrest. Hillcrest homes are known for attic windows, unique paint schemes, enchanting gardens, and hills.

"Hillcrest is a really diverse community, so you have from two bedroom, one bath house, up-to a very large house, like what the Shipleys owned and just demolished,” said Dr. Antoinette Johnson, a historical Preservationist.

David and Jamie Shipley recently bought a 110 year-old historic home in Hillcrest, known as the Branch House, and Thursday began demolishing it. Ever since they made their intentions known, they became targets of a social media firestorm.

"We originally looked at it thinking it was large enough we could renovate it and make the space what we needed it to be. Unfortunately during the process of that, we had engineers and architects come look at it, we also had the inspection report, and realized there's much more damage than what there appears to be from the outside,” Jamie Shipley told us.

The family lived in Hillcrest for a number of years and said it is home. The Branch home, she said, had water and termite damage, no central heat and air, and was declared uninhabitable by builders.

"We were extremely concerned so many houses, historic houses in Hillcrest, had come down in the last few years. Within the last two years, we've seen really an upswing in the demolitions," Shipley said.

According to the City of Little Rock, over the last seven years, 30 homes have been demolished in the Hillcrest and Riverdale areas. Dr. Johnson said with the right historical preservationist, the house could have been saved. Shipley said it didn't make financial sense to repair the house.

"I just felt like if all these people who were so angry had done anything to help the homeowner up until the point, this house and others like it wouldn't be in that condition," said Shipley.

While they may never agree on the Branch house, neighbors are turning their sights to the future, by organizing, so Hillcrest doesn't end up like another popular Little Rock neighborhood. The Heights is a hotspot for Little Rock home buyers, but Johnson said it has lost a lot of its historical integrity, because of so many demolitions and large-scale renovations. That's exactly what Save Hillcrest is trying to prevent.

"Our main goal is to keep in-tact the historic fabric of this community, and that means figuring out a way to stop the demolitions. That's our main goal at this point," Dr. Johnson said.

Save Hillcrest is trying to figure out how they can prevent historic homes from falling in disrepair, and make sure any renovations in the area meet the historical standard. They've started a GoFundMe to raise money so they can start meeting with neighbors. You can find that link here.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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