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October 2, 2012

News and Tribune letters: Oct. 2, 2012

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — A sad state for my old home

More than 40 years ago, a senseless storm called Urban Renewal swept through the west end of Jeffersonville. Using a term called eminent domain, blocks of houses were torn down regardless whether they were dilapidated or nice homes.

Eminent domain, an old Cherokee word translated as “White Man Wanton Land.” A term causing a lot of needless suffering and tears. A phase well known to any Native American. Vacant lots standing for years, home only to rabbits and field mice. It’s a waste.

Today, the old beast is back gobbling homes and businesses because a defunct canal idea or ongoing Big Four Bridge project. It seems like poor people always suffer at the hands of the rich and powerful. Always have, always will. Someday the last will come first and the first will be last.

In my old neighborhood on Ohio Avenue, houses are being demolished due also to the canal project of yesterday’s administration and the drainage system backup of a year or so ago. A lot of good fixable and livable houses being torn down for what now? What’s the new purpose now? Wildlife sanctuaries? A new dream of riches? Why?

There are so many families out there needing affordable housing and these houses are being demolished.

My old homestead at 715 Ohio St. sits vacant and overgrown with weeds and garbage awaiting its time on the execution block — an old house with character and so many more useful years to give someone interested in fixing up old homes for new life.

Built in the 1840s, as a two to three room house, in its infancy it was a stop on the underground railroad. Later on with additions, it sported an upstairs natural light artist studio and sometime in its history an earthbound spirit from a woman who died in surgery. Once shaded by a huge old Kentucky coffee tree in back (now gone), a couple of sibling trees have grown up over the years.

For years up to the time I moved out 16 years ago, the old house and its grounds were kept well, groomed and immaculate in appearance. During the 16 years someone else owned the house, it grew overgrown with bush and weeds and in disrepair. It’s so very sad to view now in its empty, desolate state — a once beautiful old double camelback shotgun house that is a survivor of countless wars and floods.

For once in my poor life, I wish I was rich and had the youth to rescue it from the wrecking ball. But time and fate has not been kind to my declining health. Surely the city of Jeffersonville could sell it to someone who loves old houses and restore it for another 100 years or so for a large family needing a home. A group home, anything, to give it purpose again.

Please don’t tear it down. Give it a second chance to be a home again for someone who cares and turn a bad thing into a good thing.

— Mike Johnson, Jeffersonville

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