Neighborhood works to save historic Spartanburg property

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SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – One of the oldest homes in one of Spartanburg’s oldest neighborhoods is set to be demolished. 

Converse Heights residents are appalled that Cleveland Hall, and more than a century of history within its doors, may be destroyed.

After a decade of this house being on and off the market, there’s a renewed push to save it now that its fate hangs in the balance.

No one can argue homes are built quite like they were when Cleveland Hall was errected in 1905 with 11 chandeliers, seven fireplaces, two stained glass windows and one grand staircase.

“There’s no way that anybody in this day and age could replicate a home like that,” Diane Dew said.

Dew lives across the street in a historic home in Converse Heights that was renovated by the previous owners.   

“I think all these years people were just hoping and praying that somebody would come along and make that home alive again,” said Dew.

The Cleveland family deeded the home to Converse College in the 1970s. For the past decade, Converse has tried to find a buyer willing to restore the home. 

“There were multiple offers that have come over the past 10 years. But as the buyers studied the circumstances they determined that they just weren’t viable for them,” said Wayde Dawson, vice president for finance and administration at Converse College.

In 2016, a prospective buyer went as far as getting the city to approve the rezoning necessary to turn this large home into apartment units, but that eventually fell through because of the cost of renovation.

John Montgomery bought the property in the fall for just $5,000.

He researched the cost of renovation, including restoring wood floors, removing asbestos and lead paint and installing central air and heat. The cost analysis showed that we would have to invest more money in the building than it ultimately would be worth, and so that’s what lead to his decision to take the house down. 

In its place, he plans to build 10 to 12 upscale single family homes that mirror the look of Converse Heights. With no designs yet, he pointed to Google images of so-called pocket neighbhoods.

We asked Montgomery if he would sell the property to someone who agreed to renovate it and he said “I’ll consider anything.”

“I’m hoping that he’s going to reconsider and see the passion that not just the local neighbors not just in Converse Heights but all around for historic homes like this… Let’s reconsider this and see what our options can be,” Dew said.

Converse College says it was unaware the developer would tear down the building, though the college cannot stipulate what buyers do after property is sold.

The developer is looking to get the lot rezoned to make way for the high density housing.

A public planning commission hearing on the matter is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Spartanburg City Council Chambers.  

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