Prentis House a triumph for city

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 16, 2003

The open house hosted by the Division of Tourism on Wednesday at the newly renovated Prentis House was a remarkable event on a number of levels.

First, walking through the door was like stepping back in time. Chip Werth, the developer – under the watchful eyes of the Historic Landmarks Commission – managed to preserve the late 18th/early 19th century look and feel of the structure. Even without the horse and buggy parked in front, outside of the computers on upstairs desks, one would be hard-pressed at a glance to find evidence that this is the 21st century.

Second, that the house was saved at all. It wasn’t long ago when the Prentis House was both an eyesore and a laughingstock for Suffolk and had been for a long time. It took vision and commitment to resurrect it.

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And third, the success of the city’s effort to preserve and restore Suffolk’s historic buildings. By guaranteeing long-term leases for local government agencies, the city has been able to lure developers to invest in the Prentis House (Division of Tourism), Byrum Hardware (Economic Development) and the Professional Building (public school administration). The effect has been to preserve wonderful architecture and history, dressing up downtown and putting these structures back on the tax rolls.

The triangle formed by the Prentis House, Gardener’s Store and the train station provides a great base from which Suffolk can become a destination for history enthusiasts.