Historical Manchester mansion demolishedBy MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader
July 06. 2016 11:32PM
MANCHESTER — An 1850 mansion that preservationists had pushed to save two years ago was quietly demolished over the last two weeks, with the new owner saying it was too expensive to restore.
The lot at 269 Hanover St. — the site of the Hill-Lassonde house and barn — will be converted into a parking lot for the The Flats at Hanover Common, a 32-unit luxury apartment redevelopment underway about a half block from the lot, said Chris Schleyer, chief operating officer for Elm Grove Companies.
The Hill-Lassonde property had been bank-owned and sat empty for several years until recently acquired by a company affiliated with Elm Grove, he said.
“It had unfortunately become a hazard and a blight to the area, and was a magnet for drug use and other crime,” Schleyer said.
Two years ago, the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance included the property in its Seven to Save list, an annual list of historical properties threatened for destruction. The organization acted after Mayor Ted Gatsas moved to pressure the owner — the Oklahoma City-based MidFirst Bank — to either clean the property or raze it.
Gatsas did so during the summer of spice, when overdoses of synthetic marijuana became commonplace at Bronstein Park, located across Hanover Street from the Hill-Lassonde property. Officials at the time said squatters were living in the house, and the bank secured it.
The state Division of Historical Resources had described the building as “one of New Hampshire’s least altered and most typical vernacular Italianate dwellings.” It was on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was home at one point to the modernist painter Omer T. Lassonde, who former New Hampshire Sunday News reporter Ben Bradlee praised in 1947 as the man who put New Hampshire on the map artistically, according to material supplied by the Preseravation Alliance.
“We were really sorry there wasn’t a preservation solution to the property,” said Maggie Stier of the Preservation Alliance. “This was a tough one.”
She said the Alliance had conversations with the bank, but it was unwilling to lower the price it expected to get for the structure.
The building represents the plight of many one-time mansions in the middle of New Hampshire cities: an orphaned historic gem surrounded by commercial buildings, Stier said. A Cumberland Farms convenience store is just to the east of the building. Homes converted to office buildings are to the west.
“Over the past few years many real estate investors, including Elm Grove Companies, have considered the property for renovation, but the costs were too high to justify,” Schleyer wrote in an email. “All of the systems, wiring and copper had previously been removed from the property. The property had a lead paint order in place. The total cost to renovate would have far exceeded the value of the finished product.”
The demolition began about two weeks ago, and as of Tuesday the structures were down, said Claude d’Anjou of Cherokee Construction, who was using an excavator to load material onto a dump truck.
He said the demolition started with asbestos abatement, then the actual dismantling of the post-and-beam structure. He said the house and barn had some original fixtures. But there were also needles and sleeping bags inside, and the third floor had been occuppied for more than a year, he said.
The parking lot will service tenants at 235 Hanover St., the former Farnum Center, with Elm Grove is converting into luxury efficiency apartments, a cafe and office space for the non-profit organization Stay Work Play and a cafe.
It is scheduled to open late this summer.
The Flats building was completed in 1892, which Schleyer said makes it historic and important in its own right.
“The building will help revitalize the area and bring in excess of 40 young professionals to the Hanover corridor,” he said.