Historic preservation commission OKs Skipwith move

Published 12:00 pm Friday, October 23, 2015

After almost failing for lack of a second to a motion to approve moving the Skipwith Cottage, the Courthouse Square Preservation Commission reconsidered its vote and eventually gave its nod of approval on plans to move the historic building from its current location on the Square next to City Hall.

The plans were tabled earlier this month after commissioners directed Jim Pryor to bring back plans of what will go in place of the house after it’s moved, which he did on Thursday during a recessed meeting of the commission.

The cottage sits on top of the roof of what was the RSVP office. Due to mold and leaks from the roof, city officials say the cottage needs to be moved soon so that the roof can be replaced and other repairs can be made so RSVP can move back into its office. RSVP is currently renting office space.

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Mark Levy with the Public Works Department presented the preliminary plans that showed once the cottage is removed, the roof will be replaced and the area on top would be made into a plaza with chairs and tables along with a stage area.

“We don’t know what will go here long-term so we didn’t want to plan anything too permanent,” he said.

The commission has been going by the city ordinance that says anyone wishing to demolish a structure needs to either have a detailed landscaping plan or architectural plans for a building to be put back in its place approved before the commission can consider the actual removal of the structure. However, some discussion was had as to whether moving a building is the same as demolishing one.

“The ordinance says demolish and there’s nothing that addressees moving,” said Assistant Planner Katrina Hourin. “Moving is addressed in the design guidelines some, which were voted on and adopted.”

Commissioner Judy Riddell made a motion to approve the landscape plans but there was no second to the motion. Phillips said if they were going by the ordinance, and looked at the plans as a landscape plan, the plan met the criteria but added verbiage that the city would have to come back before the commission for final approval.

Riddell made another motion to approve that was seconded by Tom Howorth and the plans were approved.

Pryor presented the plans of where the cottage is planned to be moved which is across from the Oxford-Lafayette County Public Library near the Skate Park. Howorth suggested the house be turned to be more in line with the tree line.

The commission unanimously approved moving the structure.

Pryor, who heads up the Historic Properties Commission, which maintains the city’s historical properties like the LQC Lamar Museum, Burns-Belfry Multicultural Center and Museum and Cedar Oaks, said the HPC will take on managing and maintenance of the structure once it’s moved.

The Board of Aldermen has approved spending $60,000 to move the cottage to the new site. Pryor’s commission studied several areas over the last few months and selected the site near the library to give the cottage visibility and functionality.

The cottage once sat on the property of what came to be known as the Skipwith House, which was torn down in 1974. The home was owned by Peyton Horatio Skipwith who used the cottage as his office. He bought the home after the Civil War when he moved to Oxford from New Orleans where he had been a successful and wealthy cotton broker and merchant involved in the slave trade.

Pryor said the cottage will be moved in the first week of November.