Dear editor,

It saddens me to see a piece of Santa Rosa County’s history demolished for any reason. How could such a thing happen in a National Historic District with a Santa Rosa County Historic Land Development Code?

I have a BS in Building Construction and have built 45 custom homes in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. I live and work in the Bagdad National Historic district, I have restored 10 historic homes in Bagdad, and currently live in a historic home, (cir. 1905) with an office in another historic home, (cir. 1858), both on Forsyth Street.

My affection runs deep with Bagdad’s rich history. Every restoration has been a love affair with the Thompson House, Ingram House, Beech House, Brown House, Pooley House, Golden House, Arnold House, Dunlap House, Crawford House and the Old Barber Shop. It was also fun to build two infill houses which are new construction, but they look historic. One is the Daugherty House on Bushnell Street and the other the Carriage House on Forsyth Street.

Since becoming president of the Bagdad Village Preservation Association, it has been my privilege to assist members in maintaining and supporting the properties of the organization which is the Bagdad Museum (cir. 1880), the Milligan House (cir. 1910) located next door and the Old Bagdad Post Office (cir. 1910) on Thompson Street located one half-block from the Mason Allen House demolition.  

The Bagdad Village Preservation Association has done much work on the old Bagdad Post Office. It is currently ready for inspection by Santa Rosa County Building Department for electric service, water service and sewer service. As private funding continues, the Old Bagdad Post Office may be ready for tours next year.

The Mason-Allen house was moved from downtown Milton to the historic district of Bagdad and set on a vacant lot using a $27,000 grant from the State of Florida, private citizens and businesses for its preservation. The house was moved in two sections and neither section was re-assembled per the original plan and no siding was repaired, no windows or doors installed and walls were not enclosed to prevent elements from entering the house.

The website of the Blackwater River Foundation states: "The Mason-Allen House Project was partially funded by The Home Depot Foundation, the Blackwater River Foundation, the State of Florida, Division of Historical Resources, Santa Rosa County, Main Street Milton, Clearwire Wireless Corp., and the Help Thy Neighbors Volunteer Center."

A new pier foundation system was constructed (permit issued 2-25-2008) which consisted of block piers with hold-down metal straps. As of today, the piers and hold-down straps were never connected to the structure. There were connections in place to secure the house to the foundation but they were never connected. For nine years (house moved in 2007 and demolition permit issued in 2016) the house was open to the elements, which included open walls and massive holes in the roof. The house was completely exposed to mother nature, varmints, vagrants and rodents. All documented by neighbors.

It’s reasonable those responsible for the Mason-Allen House could not fulfill their obligations. But why did they not offer the house for sale, reach out for local help or ask for direction from the Santa Rosa County Building Department, which regulates the Bagdad Historic Land Development Code? [Editor's Note: The Press Gazette does not state that some or all of these actions were not taken; this is a letter to the editor that suggests public perception of the situation.]

Why would anyone allow a City of Milton, Santa Rosa County and State of Florida historical treasure to slowly collapse, deteriorate and rot down? Mr. Mason and Mr. Allen are surely turning over in their graves. 

... Our dear citizens of Bagdad are left to try and understand just what does a National Historic District and a Historic Santa Rosa County Land Development Code mean? How could anyone do this and why?

The answer may lie in what happened after the demolition permit was issued.

The Mason-Allen House was dismantled piece by piece, a burn pit was created on site and 500-year-old virgin heart pine lumber was removed from the historic structure and used to build trinkets and such for a private enterprise in downtown Milton.

MICHAEL JOHNSON

Bagdad

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