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Chauncey S. Taylor House

The historic Chauncey S. Taylor House, 715 N. Fourth St., pictured here in 2017, could soon be demolished by David City. The property's owners, Kathy and Roger Treat, have been given an additional six months by the Board of Zoning Adjustment to get the building into compliance or risk having it torn down. 

The historic Chauncey S. Taylor House in David City could soon be gone.

Located at 715 N. Fourth St., the property has been listed as a nuisance by the city since 2009. In September, Building Inspector Raymond Sueper condemned the home.

For years, the house has been vacant and primarily used for storage. Sueper said though the building's structure is sound, the outside porches have been left to rot, plants are overgrown, paint is peeling and the home itself is very cluttered.

“It’s been a constant source of complaints to my office,” Sueper said. “It’s actually one of the worst cases of hoarding I’ve ever seen.”

The Board of Zoning Adjustment held a meeting on Nov. 28 to consider a request from homeowners Kathy and Roger Treat to be given six months to bring the house and property into compliance. The couple primarily lives in Colorado and have had problems with the city regarding the property for almost a decade.

Kelly Danielson, of David City, is a member of the board and was present for the meeting. He said the board agreed to give the owners several weeks to provide documentation that they have contracted someone to deal with the outside landscape. The board agreed to give the couple 30 days to clear out one-third of the items in the house and 60 days to have it completely emptied.

Danielson said he was skeptical of the owners' ability to meet the board’s demands.

“I think we’re doing everything we can to give them the opportunity to do the right thing, and I hope they do,” Danielson said. “But based off their history, I don't think they will.”

The property, also known as the Richard Zeilinger House, was built in 1888. It was constructed for Chauncey S. Taylor, a local jeweler. In 1903, he sold it to a local hardware store owner John Zeilinger, according to The Banner-Press archives. It was owned by the Zeilinger family until 1967 and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

The Treats bought the home from violin maker David Wiebe in May 2003 for $144,900, according to the county assessor's office. City Councilor Dana “Skip” Trowbridge, who is a member of the board, said he was skeptical that the property was worth even close to that now.

“It would probably take that much money to take it back into compliance to live in,” Trowbridge said.

On Nov. 28, KLKN-TV reported that the building was taken off of the National Register of Historic Places. According to Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Jill Dolberg with the Nebraska State Historical Society, this is incorrect.

Dolberg said buildings are only taken off the list if they have either been demolished or so radically changed that they no longer resemble their historic appearance. She said no one has approached her office about removing the building from the list and added that the removal process is quite extensive.

“There’s a process to it,” Dolberg said. “It’s almost as rigorous as getting something on.”

Trowbridge said no one at the meeting said the building had been removed from the registry.

“I don’t recall that statement being said at that meeting, that it had been removed from the historic registry,” Trowbridge said.

However, at the meeting, he said the city had received a letter from the Nebraska State Historical Society. The letter stated that if the building had fallen into poor conditions that the city could tear it down, regardless of it being on the registry.

This wouldn’t be the first time a Treat property was razed by a local government for negligence. According to Octavia Mayor Rick Kopecky, the Treats have a history of leaving properties to fall apart.

The Treats purchased the old post office building located on the corner of Dix and Broad Street in the village back in May 2002 from the previous owners for $1,000, according to the county assessor's office. Kopecky said over the years the building had fallen into disrepair.

“It was a hell of a nice building,” Kopecky said. “(But) they never took care of it.”

He said the property’s windows fell out, it’s ceiling caved in, the front door got busted and trees grew had overgrown. Kopecky said the brush made it difficult to see a nearby stop sign and was a hazard for children since the building was located near a city park.

“It was just causing problems,” Kopecky said. "We just wanted to get rid of the eyesore.”

The village and the Treats went back and forth in court for years until they agreed to gift the property to the city in July 2017. The city then tore down the building and the land since merged with a nearby park.

For the Chauncey S. Taylor House, Sueper said the homeowners have to complete five specific items by the end of the six-month appeal. If they don’t complete all five of them, the house will go into a 30-day countdown, at the end of which the city will advertise bids for its demolition.

“It’s a dangerous situation for the neighborhood. We had to take some drastic action to get their attention,” Sueper said. “Hopefully they take it seriously at this point, buckle down, and save the house.”

Ultimately, Trowbridge said he anticipates the city coming into possession of the property and tearing it down.

“The City of David City has wasted tons of resources on this lunacy,” Trowbridge said. “It’s time to stop, after 10 years, it’s time to stop.”

The Banner-Press was unable to get in contact with Kathy Treat or Roger Treat for this story.

Eric Schucht is a reporter with The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News Review.

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