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The story of the fall of the Orth House will be told as part of a talk and exhibit on preservation advocacy sponsored by Preserve Minneapolis and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. Anders Christensen of the Healy Project will narrate the two-year- long fight to save the 1893 Healy-built house from demolition. The story of the Orth House, along with other stories of preservation advocacy, will be part of a talk and discussion at the Hennepin History Museum, 2303 Third Ave. South. Thursday, August 17th, 6:30-9:30 p.m. The museum is hosting an exhibit of these stories beginning August 10th.
If you can’t make it to the talk or exhibit, you can read about the fight for the Orth House, its demolition and the aftermath on posts on this blog. It’s a story that’s painful for those of us who fought to save it. . . .and a story that members of the City Council, City Planning, and local developers would like to forget. But it should and must be told.
The deck is almost always stacked against old historic buildings when developers take their promises of higher density and higher tax base to City government. The big triumph over the small, the new over the old, the affluent over those of modest means. The Healy Project will keep fighting as long as old buildings are threatened. And they will always be threatened.
On the morning of February 25th, excavation trucks turned up on site at 2316-2320 Colfax Avenue South. Then came the backhoe. By around 9 o’clock, demolition was under way. The backhoe went at the Orth House all day, but still hadn’t completely demolished it. Compare that to the usual time it takes to demolish a modern dwelling–less than an hour.
Two men worked on the demolition, one on the backhoe and another guy walking around seemingly aimlessly, heedless of peril from lead-filled particulates and falling debris. Neither wore respirators to protect themselves from the toxic dust. At one point the machine operator knocked the chimney and a large chunk of the front gable and cornice onto the front of the backhoe. The site was not roped off, and at times debris fell onto the sidewalk.
Brian Finstad, who watched the demo, reported on this OSHA nightmare: “The Orth House demolition was done without proper procedure for lead containment. Neighbors watched as literally plumes of lead contaminated dust rose into the air and on a very windy day disbursed upon the neighborhood. Only after well into an hour into the demolition (and they probably realized they were being photographed) did they bring out a hose to spray down the dust, but even that was only a token effort and the contaminate continued to disburse into the neighborhood.”
Le roi est mort, vive le roi! The Orth House is gone, long live the legacy of T,P. Healy, King of the Queen Anne!
Photo credits: Anders Christensen, Will Lumpkins, Trilby Busch, Bob Roscoe.