In the News

‘Hoping to stop them’: Group asks judge to delay demolition of historical cottage

By KATHY MELLOTT and ARLENE JOHNS of the Tribune Democrat
October 26, 2009

CRESSON — A Cambria County judge could act as early as today on a request filed Monday on behalf of the Cresson Area Historical Association seeking to delay demolition of the Braemar-Jones cottage.

Association members were scrambling Monday after word came late last week that Cresson Township officials were preparing to have the 14-room cottage demolished this week.

Ebensburg attorney Tim Burns is asking Judge David Tulowitzki to issue an order halting any demolition of the 1888 cottage until there is a hearing or until Nov. 15.

A member of Tulowitzki’s staff said late Monday that he had not acted on the association’s request.

There was no indication when he may act, whether it be to schedule a hearing or deny the request and allow demolition to proceed.

The supervisors have been dealing with the ramshackle structure, once thought to have been the summer home of steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie, since 2005, when neighbors petitioned officials to do something.

The cottage has been the property of the historical association for nearly two decades, and the deteriorated condition is a public safety concern.

But restoring the structure carries a multimillion dollar price tag, money the group does not have.

Earlier this year Tulowitzki, responding to a township request, ruled the condition of the structure was a violation of the local nuisance ordinance and gave officials until mid-September to have it demolished.

A last-ditch request by the historical group, which suggested there may be some money available for Braemar’s stabilization, prompted the supervisors to extend the dates in the court order.

Supervisor Scott Decoskey said Monday that extension until Nov. 15 was not the first day the demolition could begin, but rather the day when it must be completed, as per the court order.

“We extended the cutoff date until Nov. 15,” he said.

With less than three weeks until mid-November, it is time to start making arrangements, Decoskey said.

While details were sketchy Monday, Decoskey said a contractor who will be moving equipment through the area sometime this week has agreed to take the building down at no cost to the township.

He was unable to say what day that would be and would not name the contractor.

“We’ve given them (the association) plenty of time. This is a one-time opportunity. We can do it now, or at a later date when it will cost us a huge amount of money,” Decoskey said.

Township Solicitor Gerald Neugebauer said if Tulowitzki grants an injunction, everything will come to a halt.

“The judge has the right to simply dismiss that. My argument will be that the court has no jurisdiction in this matter,” he said, adding there is a final order in place.

Association members gathered outside the cottage Monday to discuss their options, and if need be, stand in the way of bulldozers, said Brenda Kalwasinski, the organization’s president.

She, like some others, believed the group had until Nov. 15 to find money before demolition could begin.

“We’re hoping to try to stop them,” she said, standing on the front lawn of the cottage now believed to have belonged to Benjamin F. Jones of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co.

While there has been no word on a $150,000 grant the association is seeking from a private nonprofit organization, that approval is expected this week, she said.

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