Originally Published: March 21, 2010 10:46 p.m.
PRESCOTT - One hundred and twenty-nine years after it first appeared on the landscape of downtown Prescott, the old Shull house now sits boarded up and awaiting its demolition.
Stripped of much of its former landscaping and historic charm, the Queen Anne Victorian house on Cortez Street has been in line for removal for months, but it had a brief reprieve while the city awaited an asbestos analysis.
Now officials report that the 1881 house - one of Prescott's oldest remaining buildings - likely would come down in the next several weeks.
"We don't know an exact date yet," Assistant City Manager Laurie Hadley said Friday of the demolition plans, "but I would expect it to happen in the first part of April."
The house first gained attention this past summer, when the city conducted a sealed-bid auction to try to solicit interest in moving the house.
With bidding starting at $1, city officials hoped that someone would step forward to move and salvage the house. But after advertising for weeks, the city received no bids. By late summer, the city announced that it would move forward with demolition to make way for a new parking lot.
Although the demolition was initially set for about August, Hadley said a delay occurred while the city waited to get the asbestos analysis. Now, "We have the asbestos report, and (the carcinogenic material) is minimal," she added.
City crews, including the field operations department and utilities department, will handle the demolition, Hadley said.
The house is significant in Prescott's history, because it once housed local pioneers John (Jack) and Isabelle Shull. Early businesspeople in Prescott, the Shulls operated the Fashion Stables around the turn of the 20th century. After Jack Shull's death in 1899, Isabelle and her two oldest sons ran the business on their own, but ultimately sold it in about 1902.
Long-time Prescott Historic Preservation Specialist Nancy Burgess, who recently retired, said the city took a number of steps to salvage as much as possible from the house before demolition.
"We did take the stained-glass window, and we had that framed," she said of the 1970s-era transom windows over the front doors. The framed window now hangs in Prescott City Hall.
In addition, the city and other parties harvested some of the plants that once decorated the yard of the home. The city also will retain the yard's stone wall and the 300-year-old-plus oak tree that sits along Cortez Street.
"There really wasn't a whole lot worth saving," Burgess said. "The house had been added on so many times."
That also was the conclusion of Sharlot Hall Museum this past summer, when Executive Director John Langellier said, "The house has been so heavily manipulated over the years that it has lost its intrinsic historic value."
Even so, Burgess said, "I hate to see it go."
A number of prospective buyers reportedly looked at the house to evaluate its potential for moving. But Burgess said the consensus appeared to be, "By the time you take all of the additions off, it wasn't worth moving."
To get some use out of the house before demolition, City Manager Steve Norwood said the city recently allowed the Prescott Police Department to use the building for a SWAT training.
Sgt. Kevin Perlak said about 15 SWAT members conducted entry training at the building on March 11. The officers broke the windows and used the doors to train for forcibly entering a home. "It was a very good house to use, because it had so many different additions," Perlak said.
After the training, the city boarded up the windows.
In March 2008, the city bought the property from Shull descendant Ethel Tyson for $268,000, with the understanding that she could stay in the house for the rest of her life. Tyson died later in 2008.
Hadley said the parking lot that the city will build in place of the house will include about 20 new spaces for City Hall and the public, and about 20 more spaces for secure police department parking.