Renovated `tinderbox' becomes a new home

Mount Airy volunteers helped mayor rebuild an unsafe structure

July 23, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

When Mount Airy Mayor Gerald Johnson took office in 1990, one of the first items on his agenda was to renovate the house at 809 E. Ridgeville Blvd.

Johnson said he heard kids often sneaked inside the vacant house, and because of its deteriorating wooden construction, he feared it was a "tinderbox" that would easily go up in flames.

Now, after nearly 10 years of planning and construction, the project is finished. Where the decaying two-story green weatherboard home once was, a tan rancher with vinyl siding stands.

While construction of houses is an everyday occurrence in this rapidly growing town, the house was a product of volunteer and discounted labor.

Nearly a dozen Mount Airy residents contacted Johnson to offer their expertise -- in law, construction, real estate and financing.

"We volunteered to help tear the house down, because we have the equipment," said Mount Airy resident Bonnie Winkler. Because her husband, Winford, owns Trench Line, an excavating business in Mount Airy, she, her husband and their son worked on the project.

"A slew of people jumped in and gave their time. Everyone wanted to help the mayor," she said.

In addition to being on the work crew, Winkler, a real estate agent with Remax, listed the house for free.

She said Johnson told her to list the house at $103,000. "He just took what the costs were and knew what he had to cover," she said, adding that he was "not trying to make a whole lot of money." The house sold for $100,000.

Jim Frey, president of Frall Development Inc., and his wife, Holly, helped build the house at a much lower construction price than they would usually charge.

"It wasn't even good enough to be called an eyesore. It was a dump," Frey said of the house that was demolished. Frey has lived in the unincorporated area surrounding the town for more than 50 years.

When Johnson became interested in the house, he discovered it was deeded by a Mr. and Mrs. Luby to their five children. After tracking down the Lubys' grown children in 1991, they turned over the 100-year-old house to Johnson.

None of the Luby children could be reached for comment.

"They all have their own properties and were not interested in the house," Johnson said. Once ownership of the house was passed to Johnson, construction began. The new house was sold last month to Dwayne Myers, 28, a mechanic for Hahn Transportation, who believes he got a good deal on the house because it was a project of community effort.

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