Durham County

Developer plans to demolish Fendol Bevers’ 1850s Durham homestead

Fendol Bevers home on Leesville Road in Durham will be demolished after advocates failed to find someone to move the homestead in time.
Fendol Bevers home on Leesville Road in Durham will be demolished after advocates failed to find someone to move the homestead in time. kkeister@newsobserver.com

It appears that time has run out for one of Durham’s oldest buildings, and the board chairman for Preservation Durham isn’t happy about it.

“The irony of calling your development Fendol Farms and bulldozing a 170-year-old farmstead (it was named after) is kind of breathtaking,” Rob Emerson, chair of the historical organization, said in an interview.

Representatives of the 423-acre project — dubbed Fendol Farms at Brier Creek — with up to 1,200 homes said they have worked to give the historic house away for years, but to no avail.

“Unfortunately, it is the 11th hour and unfortunately the home is in our way right now,” Aimee Craig Carlson, director of Miami-based Rialto Capital Management, said at a City Council meeting Monday. “So, we are out of time. Thirty days. Ninety days. Any of that time is going to delay us. As you know this project has some ups and downs. It has started and stopped.”

At the heart of the tension is a stalled plan to develop property in southeast Durham that contains the 1850 homestead of Fendol (sometimes spelled Fendel) Bevers, a Wake County surveyor who created an 1871 county map from his surveys for the 1870 U.S. Census.

Durham county commissioners approved a rezoning for the property in July 2006. The property was annexed into the city in 2008.

In 2014, a joint venture between Rialto Capital Management and Shenandoah Homes acquired the southern portion of the property. Steve Fowler’s East Durham Land Company owns the northern portion.

For two years, developers advertised the option for someone to take the house, plus $15,000 allotted to help with the moving costs. About a year and half passed after that period, Carlson said.

As Rialto Capital is now moving forward with construction, representatives sought some changes to the plan, including adding a commitment that 80 percent of the residences will be occupied by someone who is 55 or older. On Monday, the City Council considered and ultimately approved that and other minor changes to plan for the property north of Leesville Road and east of Doc Nichols Road.

Emerson used the public hearing on the changes to make a plea to save the historic house on the property, which the developers aren’t interested in keeping. Emerson recently found a company that was interested in moving the house to East Durham and asked the City Council to give him more time to explore the deal.

Carlson, however, said developers are ready to move forward now with construction and planned to take photographs and document other aspects of the home before it was demolished.

“There will be a nice display in the sales center and eventually in the clubhouse,” Carlson said.

City Council members pointed out that it was unclear how long Preservation Durham would need to work out the details of the proposed move that might not even come to fruition. They encouraged developers to work with Emerson, but said that they didn’t have any authority to delay the project since a site plan had already been approved.

“There is no tool in our toolbox on our agenda tonight that lets is preserve this house for 30 days or 60 days or one day,” said City Councilman Charlie Reece said. “The developer has that authority right now.”

A number of people have expressed interest in moving the home over the years, but nothing ever came of it, Emerson said. One woman wanted to move the home to Orange County. Her research indicated the move would cost about $50,000.

Emerson thought the home had already been demolished, but learned a couple of months ago that it was still on the property.

Owners of the Durham construction and real estate company Renovision Properties have expressed interest in moving the home to East Durham. Emerson said he had been communicating with an on-sight manager about the interest of the house, but Carlson said Monday night was the first she had heard of it of someone being interested in the house.

“As much as I don’t like to show up at the 11th hour and complicate somebody’s rezoning case, we thought it was our best chance to get someone to give us a little bit more time to see if this is an option,” Emerson said.

In an email, Carlson said the she anticipates the home will be demolished within the next 30 days.

“Demolition will occur after certain elements of the home have been removed for preservation and reuse in the community clubhouse as part of the interpretative display honoring Mr. Fendol Bevers and his surveying work in Durham County,” Carlson wrote.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges