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Historic New Albany farmhouse saved from demolition

The Smith Farmhouse was built between the 1830s and 1850s on what is now a heavily-developed area of Charlestown Road in New Albany.
The Smith Farmhouse was built between the 1830s and 1850s on what is now a heavily-developed area of Charlestown Road in New Albany.

A Southern Indiana developer is no longer planning to tear down a historic farmhouse in New Albany following public outcry over its project.

Hogan Real Estate’s original proposal for Northside Crossing, a retail development near Northside Christian Church on Charlestown Road, included demolishing the Smith Farmhouse. More than 2,000 people signed a petition to save the 19th-century structure last month.

The developer will now relocate the house to the backside of the property along Lewis A. Endres Parkway and donate it to Indiana Landmarks.

Greg Sekula, southern regional director for the historic preservation nonprofit, said he would’ve liked to see the house remain on its current plot. But because it will still sit on property that was formerly part of the Smith family farm, he sees the decision as a victory.

“This is a great example of where development and historic preservation can work together,” Sekula said. “Hogan is going to have to pay for the cost of the relocation, but I think they see this as the cost of doing business.”

Last month, the New Albany Plan Commission voted down the development proposal that included the Smith Farmhouse, also known as the Zetta May Ranch. Several residents spoke out against the project after Amanda Frey, the granddaughter of the former property owners, started an online petition to prevent the razing of the house.

“It takes that special little flair out of that area and makes us look like every other city, where everybody's being developed, everybody has the same strip mall, [and] everybody has the same movie theater,” Frey said last month. “And that house sitting up there, it’s just beautiful to look at, and it makes us different.”

New Albany City Council members approved the project last week once Hogan agreed to relocate the house, which dates back to the mid-1800s.

“I think it shows, one, the strength of social media,” Sekula said. “And I applaud the developer, as well as Northside, for coming back to the table and trying to achieve a win-win situation.”

Hogan plans to provide vehicular and utility access for the farmhouse. Sekula will ask Indiana Landmarks’ board of directors for final approval next month.

If the project moves forward as planned, Indiana Landmarks will seek preservation covenants for the house and find a third party to rehabilitate it.

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.