Local preservationists have no legal basis for appealing the state's decision to allow demolition of two homes on Tennessee Street.
Two houses near a historic mansion on Tennessee Street finally can come down.
City officials this week cleared the way for demolition of vacant homes at 1601 Tenn. and 1607 Tenn., as requested five months ago by owner Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, 1537 Tenn.
Both homes are uninhabitable. One has major structural damage, and the other was gutted by fire last year.
"You've got to do something," said Merle Nunemaker, president of the fraternity's Gamma Mu Building Corp. "At this point, we don't have any other options than to tear them down."
The state's historic preservation office OK'd the fraternity's plans for demolition despite objections from the city's Historic Resources Commission, which maintained that razing the homes would harm the historical integrity of the nearby Ludington-Thacher House, 1613 Tenn.
A subsequent appeal by the Lawrence Preservation Alliance had sought to delay the demolitions, but city officials determined that state law allows no such appeal.
Dennis Enslinger, the city's historic resources administrator, said losing the homes would erode the surroundings of the Ludington-Thacher House, one of the city's most magnificent examples of early architecture.
"The loss of any character around any historical property is always sad to see," he said.
Marci Francisco, president of the preservation alliance, said she hoped to schedule meetings with the fraternity to discuss possibilities. The alliance, for example, could raise money to help finance renovation of the homes, one of which was gutted by fire last year.
"We want to make sure people understand the limitations," she said. "Once you tear the property down, you're going in one direction."
Nunemaker said he would be willing to discuss "workable" options with the alliance. The fraternity plans to extend its rear parking lot and install a second driveway onto Tennessee.
"I'll go in with an open mind," he said. "I'm not a destructionist. I don't want to just go in and tear things down just for the heck of it."
The Ludington-Thacher House, also known as the Maupin House, was built in 1860 and 1872 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lawrence pediatrician Terry Riordan and his family live in the house, which is being renovated.
The demolition permits, which have been on hold since Sept. 20, may be picked up any weekday at city hall.
Construction of anything in the houses' place, however, would require approval from the Historic Resources Commission.