Obici House: Just one thing to lose

Published 3:50 pm Wednesday, January 13, 2010

To the editor:

For the past semester I have studied the Obici House as a part of the work I am doing for my master’s degree in historic preservation. I examined how the Obici House could be re-used and also looked at the damage to the building.

There are several points that stand out to me as I have observed the actions of the city of Suffolk regarding this historic building. In the first place, the majority of the damage to the structure is from water leaking into the house. It is obvious that the roof and drainage systems have been in disrepair for many years. The city should have at the very least repaired the leaks in the roof and maintained the gutters. This minimal work would have prevented the water damage to the second-floor plaster and the deterioration of the rear porch.

The house is on the National Register of Historic Places, “the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.” It is clear that the city of Suffolk thinks differently or it would have cared for the property according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Second, the city’s claim that money is the issue is a bit of a problem for me. It was previously stated that the preservation of the Obici House would cost $2 million. What I would like to know is how much it would cost to demolish the Obici House (as well as the existing Carriage House, barn and silo), remove all the debris, build a clubhouse and then landscape.

How much is the construction of the new clubhouse going to cost? My guess is that the entire project would cost at least $2 million, if not more.

These facts that seem to be common sense, along with the history of building and the significant contributions of Mr. and Mrs. Obici to the city of Suffolk, should be enough to merit the preservation of the Obici House.

The Obici House is a beautiful, 7,000-square-foot building with large, elegant rooms downstairs and smaller rooms upstairs. The rooms upstairs would be ideal for offices or conference rooms, while the downstairs rooms are large enough to serve various purposes. It has served as a site for weddings and would lend itself well to that use once again.

There are other examples of a historic house on a golf course being reused as the course’s clubhouse. As is evident in the downtown Suffolk downtown area, preserving and re-using historic buildings is a profitable enterprise.

There are a number of people who are more than willing to take on the financial responsibility of the preservation of the Obici House. The city has only one thing to lose by giving away this responsibility — the prime location for the clubhouse right next to the 18th hole.

May I remind you that the house came before the 18th hole?