Saturday, August 21, 2010

Langston Hughes house - CONDEMNED!

On Friday, I had a friend visiting from out of town. I gave her a tour of some of the most notable historic sites in our city - the Garfield Monument, the Arcade, the Cleveland Public Library, and the Jesse Owens house. A final site on our list, one that I'm rather proud about bringing to the public attention, was the Langston Hughes house, at 2266 East 86th Street.

Hughes lived alone in an unheated attic apartment in this historic house during his sophomore and junior years of high school. Though we have little record of his time spent in the house, it must have substantially affected him and his writing. The house has been designated a Cleveland Landmark. The story of the efforts to save it even warranted a piece on All Things Considered.

Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation had committed to rehabbing the house and selling it to a low-to-moderate income family. They were to proceed forward with this any time now.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this sign, attached to the front porch:

Langston Hughes residence - CONDEMNED

I've written several posts about this house. One of them is a full tour of the interior. An episode of the WVIZ television show Applause was even filmed in it.

Take a close look at the interior of this vital piece of Cleveland history. Yes, there are issues with the plaster. Yes, the plumbing and associated fixtures have been removed. Note, however, that there don't appear to be any obvious structural issues. Water isn't entering the house in any obvious locations. Pieces aren't falling off and threatening passersby.

Langston Hughes residence - CONDEMNED

Look at the house as it appeared on Friday. It remains properly secured. It doesn't pose an obvious threat to the public health or welfare.

I wish I could say exactly when it was condemned, but the notice that listed the violations was, alas, removed.

This house is a City Landmark. In order for it to be demolished, city law dictates that the Landmarks Commission must hold a hearing on the matter. Yet when I asked Robert Keiser, secretary of the commission, about the condemnation on Friday afternoon, he had not heard of it previously. He vowed to look into it.

Phone calls to Fairfax Renaissance have not yet been returned either.

Of the five houses where Langston Hughes lived for any significant amount of time in Cleveland, only two remain. The other one, 2256 East 86th Street, has also been condemned.

Langston Hughes house - CONDEMNED

Langston Hughes lived with his mother in a five room apartment in this house from early May 1936 - April 21, 1937. I didn't bring it up before when I first posted about saving 2266 East 86th Street because it was privately owned and said to be in the process of being rehabbed. The documents posted on the house are dated August 10, so there is still some time to act, if anyone cares enough to step forward.

Expect a post on Monday or Tuesday providing an update on the situation and information about what you can do to help.

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