Kitchens home gets reprieve as council postpones decision

By Phil Major
Posted 8/25/22

The fate of the Kitchens home at 303 N. Johnson St. in Mineola will have to wait for another day.

The city council voted Monday to postpone acting on the First Baptist Church request to raze the home.

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Kitchens home gets reprieve as council postpones decision


The fate of the Kitchens home at 303 N. Johnson St. in Mineola will have to wait for another day.

The city council voted Monday to postpone acting on the First Baptist Church request to raze the home.

City attorney Blake Armstrong explained that the Certificate of Appropriateness application the church had filed requesting to demolish the home it has owned since 2008 would not have allowed for demolition.

Instead a permit to demolish would be required, while the certificate would be for making improvements.

The decision followed a public hearing lasting more than 30 minutes and a closed-door session with the council and Armstrong lasting slightly longer.

Armstrong explained that there are other ambiguities in the city ordinance that need to be cleaned up.

He acknowledged that the vote taken by the Landmark Commission to allow demolition requires five votes, and there were only four. The nine-member commission had two members absent when it took up the matter in July, and three abstained from the vote.

The public hearing was split between three presentations from those who wish to save and restore the home and two from church members.

Bill Self, chair of the church’s building and property committee, said as a former history teacher, he does applaud the preservation of history.

When the church bought the property, which is northwest of the main church campus, for $106,000 from the David Kitchens estate, it was for expansion, not as a home, he said.

There were no deed restrictions, and the home was not enrolled in any historical registers.

In 2011 an attempt was made to have a church staff member live in the home, he said, but that turned into a “money pit,” with continual maintenance required.

In 2018 the church decided to move ahead with demolition only to be delayed by several factors, including the advent of the COVID pandemic in 2020.

An offer to have it moved was subsequently rejected due to the cost, which was higher due to the lot’s elevation, $80,000 to $85,000.

He noted that some items had been removed from the interior, but those who did so “exceeded” their permission.

He said the church plans to remove the mantle from the home and create a historical display in the main church and would allow a historical marker to be placed on the property. The well-known bluebonnets on the corner would remain, he said.

The property, along with one to the west that the church owns, would be used for parking and a storage facility.

The lot would hold 25-30 vehicles, he said.

Leon Anderson, who served on the committee when the purchase was made, noted that the city benefits from the church parking lot, used frequently when there are activities downtown.

He said during the time the staff member lived there, church leaders recognized there was no future for the home.

Vic Savelli led off the hearing with a presentation about preserving the home.

He discussed the various historic homes in Mineola and Wood County that he has restored, including the chamber of commerce building, a former bank.

He said the money that restored older homes bring when they sell has changed the status of older homes in Mineola.

“A lot of people relied on me to come forward and tell why it should stay,” he said.

He said he was taken aback by the news that it was going to be demolished.

“It is an absolutely beautiful home,” he said.

There has been systematic destruction from the inside, but it is by no means beyond repair.

The roof line is straight, the brick is good to excellent, and the front porch columns have not rotted.

It has some of the most unique architecture features, he said.

The city’s historic district has only three or four homes, he said, and this is one of the most visible.

“This home can again be a stately historic home,” Savelli said.

He said one of the things he discovered when he was involved with the chamber was the lack of recognition of the town’s business history, and the Kitchens name is attached to the oldest retail business in town.

“This is not a fight against the church, the Landmark Commission or the city council,” he said, but for architectural and cultural history.

He said he hopes the church “finds in its heart” and allows it to stay so the community can come together to save the house.

Savelli said he would donate his consulting services for restoring the house and give the first $1,000 to a campaign to raise the money.

Allene Doggett, whose daughter, Corbie, is the current owner of the Kitchens Hardware restaurant, said a Kitchens relative told her that making such a decision (to demolish) would make similar decisions easier to make in the future.

Lupita Wisener, who said she is familiar with maintaining older properties at Wisener Field, noted that so many older properties have already been torn down, such as the 1888 building.

Mayor Jayne Lankford concluded the hearing saying she hoped there is a solution.

Following the closed session she added that the council hopes to have the changes ready by the next meeting.