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Fate of Beetison mansion discussed by council

Fate of Beetison mansion discussed by council

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Ashland City Council

BETTER DAYS: The deterioration and vandalism of the Israel Beetison mansion, seen here in a photo taken several years ago, was the topic of discussion by the Ashland City Council last Thursday. (Gazette File Photo)

ASHLAND – Recent pictures of vandalism at a local historic landmark brought several people to the Ashland City Council meeting to voice their displeasure at the state of the building.

Members of the former family that owned the landmark, Ashland Historical Society members and other residents with interest in the Beetison mansion attended last Thursday’s meeting to discuss the recent state of the former family home.

The Beetison mansion was built in 1875 for the family of Israel Beetison, an immigrant from England. The two-story Italianate mansion was filled with arched windows, bracketed eves, decorative corner stonework and a low-pitched hip roof. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

Four generations of the Beetison family lived in the home until it was sold to Boyer-Young, developers of the Iron Horse subdivision and golf course in the 1990s.

Recent photos posted on social media show graffiti and evidence that drug use has been taking place at the historic structure. Krista Sender, a member of the Beetison family, said the images “rip our hearts out.”

“Personally, if this is all that it means to anybody, I would rather see it gone,” she told the council.

Council Member Bruce Wischmann said he recently toured the vacant home, with permission from the owner, to see the vandalism and the condition of the home for himself. Using his experience as a contractor, Wischmann said the house is in “pretty rough” shape. The structure is deteriorating, and there is hole in the roof that is allowing water to destroy the stone walls.

“Anything can be saved if you throw enough money at it,” he said. “But it’s going to take a lot of money.”

Susan Cerny, a resident of the Iron Horse neighborhood, said four years ago she and her husband, Mike Cerny, talked to a heavy duty, professional industrial mover about relocating the structure. They were told it would cost more than $650,000. They also discussed restoration of the building with the Leo A Daly architectural firm, the same company that restored the Burlington Station in Omaha. Cerny said they were told it would be too expensive.

“It’s cost prohibitive to do it as it sits there,” she said.

Wischmann estimated it would take as much as $1.5 million to restore the building.

Shirley Niemeyer, a member of the Ashland Historical Society, said the building’s history makes it valuable, despite its condition.

“This is Ashland. This is part of a very long history in a very historic community,” she said.

City Attorney Mark Fahleson said the city could go after the owners as a nuisance property. Although the building does not sit within city limits, the city would have jurisdiction under the zoning laws.

However, Fahleson and City Administrator Jessica Quady noted that they are already dealing with numerous nuisance properties inside city limits, and resources are stretched thin.

“I can’t speak for the council, but as you might have noticed we have a lot on our plate trying to clean up properties and a very limited budget,” Fahleson said.

Sender and Marilyn Wright, a member of the Ashland Historical Society, asked why the city has not attempted to board up or fence the property to keep out vandals. Fahleson said the responsibility lies with the property owner.

Cerny said in her research on the Beetison mansion, she learned Boyer Young no longer own the structure. She said Linda Clatterbuck, a former resident of Iron Horse, has a controlling interest in the building. City Administrator Jessica Quady said an internet search showed the building is owned by an entity called Iron Horse Ridge.

According to the agreement signed by the developers in 1999, however, the house should not have been sold without prior approval of the city council, Fahleson told the council.

Cerny’s suggestion is to take parts of the building and repurpose them around the community to pay homage to the history of the mansion. One idea would be to make a welcome sign out of the limestones that make up the structure.

Comments by city council members during the discussion indicate none of them want to see the building demolished.

“If this house was in Wahoo that thing would be restored now. It’s time to take a serious look at it right now,” said Council Member Chuck Niemeyer.

At the same time, they aren’t sure what to do about the historic structure.

“I think personally it a nice structure,” said Mayor Rick Grauerholz. “Is it savable? I don’t know.”

Grauerholz recommended a citizen’s group gauge the community’s interest in restoring, repurposing or moving the mansion. He asked members of the historical society to take on the task, but those in attendance said they would have to have to put the issue to a vote first.

Ashland Area Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Caleb Fjone offered to put together an online survey and host a town hall meeting to discuss the historic structure.

Suzi Nelson is the managing editor of The Ashland Gazette. Reach her via email at suzi.nelson@ashland-gazette.com.

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