TEXARKANA, Ark. - Concerned residents on Monday told the city's Board of Directors they want the historic Foulke House to be preserved, despite apparent plans by the church that owns it to tear it down.
Nothing concerning the house — built in 1903 at 501 Pecan St. and on the National Register of Historic Places — was on the agenda for the Board's regular biweekly meeting. But four residents used the meeting's open citizen communication time to express their hope that something can be done to stop Beech Street First Baptist Church from demolishing the house.
Dr. Doris Davis said she is a professor emeritus of history at Texas A&M University-Texarkana who serves on the Texarkana Museums System board and the Historic District Commission. She said she was speaking of behalf of "many, many" people in the community who want to save the house.
"A good steward of the soul in my mind is also a good steward of the land, a good steward of the culture," Davis said.
Pediatrician Dr. John Hall said he was involved in creating the city's Historic District and he would not like to see the Foulke House brought down like many other historic homes have been.
"We'd like to preserve something in Texarkana that says, 'This is Texarkana,'" Hall said. "We feel like it's our job, our duty to protect historic structures."
Danny Gordon brought up the city's Historic District Commission ordinance. It says the city may not grant a demolition permit for any "real property designated as a historic landmark or within a historic district" unless the Commission issues a "certificate of appropriateness" first. Gordon asked whether the ordinance applies to everyone and, if the rules were not going to be enforced, why the Commission exists.
Trent Hanna said "Beech Street has done a good job of bulldozing homes" and if the church does not want to be in the business of preserving historic buildings, it should stop buying them.
"I'm watching," Hanna said. "I own three historic properties myself. If the rules don't apply, the rules don't apply."
Contents of the house were up for sale Friday and Saturday, and an ad said the house "will be torn down shortly after the sale." The city Public Works Department on Monday said Beech Street has not yet applied for a demolition permit but has been in touch with city officials about the process for doing so.
Beech Street did not respond to the Gazette's requests for comment on Friday or previously. Head pastor Craig Jenkins told the Mena Star the demolition plans are part of a yearlong feasibility study, the house does not fit into the church's ministry plans, and he believes moving the house would be too difficult.
Its listing on the National Register of Historic Places does not protect the house from being destroyed, as it is privately owned and does not receive federal funding.
In other business, the Board unanimously approved the harvest and sale of 110 acres of timber on the grounds of Texarkana Regional Airport.
Pending corresponding approval by the Texas-side City Council, the Texarkana Airport Authority will thin timber on two tracts of airport land and clear-cut a third. Proceeds from selling the timber will go into the Authority's general fund and be used for unbudgeted capital expenses this fiscal year.
"The clearcut location prepares this site for the parking lot and circle driveway for the new Terminal building. The thinning operations helps limit habitat for animals that pose danger to runway operations. Permission from the Army Corps of Engineers has been received for any controlled areas," a summary published with the meeting's agenda states.
The Board also voted to approve a contract with Contech Contractors Inc. to build a concession stand and restrooms at Ermer Dansby Pondexter Sports Complex at a cost of more than $373,000. The cost was planned for in the current city budget. Ward 2 Director Laney Harris voted present on the measure, with all other Board members voting yes.
The Board's next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 16.