Urbanized Historic Farmstead Slated for Demolition

IMG_5651Our Programs Coordinator, Rachel Parris, recently became engaged in an effort to save the historic Joseph A. Thomas-Hazell House located at 3800 E. Mexico Avenue. Joseph A. Thomas-Hazell, born in 1881 on Saint Kitts Island in the West Indies, was one of the original pioneers of Dearfield, an African-American colony based on the philosophical teachings of Booker T. Washington. Founded in 1910, Dearfield focused on dryland farming and grew into a vibrant community. The house Thomas-Hazell builtin 1897, at 3800 E. Mexico Avenue was a farmstead, where he kept cows, planted a small orchard, and grew vegetables. He lived out his life here, a minister at People’s Presbyterian Church, and assisting Dearfield. His son, Joseph Thomas-Hazell, was born in the house 1923, and returned to the house after working for General Electric in New York. After his death, in 2012, no will was found and no heirs were found, so the property went to the state, and was sold in March for $700,000 to Encore Homes.

The builder applied for a demolition permit, and the City of Denver’s Community Planning and Development office conducted a standard landmark preservation review. Unfortunately, the City found that the house did not meet the required two out of three criteria for eligibility, and during the time that the property was in limbo no one from the community took out a historic designation application.

In partnership with Historic Denver, Inc., Colorado Preservation, Inc. met with the developer and builder to go on site and get inside the building to determine whether it would be feasible to move the building from its current location in order to move the structure. Upon entry to the house it became clear that moving the structure was not an option due to severe cracks through several elevations, and an unstable foundation.

The property owners have agreed to delay the demolition in order to allow for complete documentation that will include archival level photographs and basic measurements. We wish that the house could have been rehabbed and saved as an important piece of pioneer African-American history; however, unfortunately due to several factors, this wasn’t possible. Demolition is set to occur on Friday, April 26, 2013.

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