HPARC’S awakening to demolition by neglect

January 4, 2022

I have been at HPARC meetings and repeatedly stated that not one Black-owned and-occupied residence had ever been deemed worthy of a historic designation for preservation.

So, it is with some irony I read the sudden about-face in the Dec. 24 issue of the Cape Gazette. When we bought property in Lewes, I became aware of a Black-owned and-occupied building declared uninhabitable.
The house was on Chestnut Street and the year was 2015. We will shortly lose another building.

Think of the St. Paul’s church, which apparently was sold privately, so even when faced with a Black historic building in good shape, HPARC took no notice. I am aware that there are several other residences, formerly owned and occupied by Blacks, like St. Paul’s. 

I do not understand what triggered the demolition as the article’s featured house has been standing “as is” for some time. I also do not understand why HPARC could not have moved sooner to protect the home, or at least the exterior, or to amend its authority to respond to such cases. Also, an active developer and a building department official sit on HPARC. Then to realize the city had the tools to repair the building all the while smacks of the proverbial straw. I am affronted by HPARC’s guileful reaction as if they suddenly realized that dereliction might be synonymous with historic, and as such, now to consider an inventory of all city residences, including Black neighborhoods.
This appears to be a public relations move given their stance on the net reel.  

Why did the Rehoboth Dolle’s sign or the Lewes swing bridge receive preservation and such prominence so quickly when the net reel represents even more significance in the history of Lewes? Why does it seem to be too little and/or too late when it comes to the Black community?

Lewes is not such a big town for HPARC not to be familiar with its potential historical buildings. 

Alicia Jones
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