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A Beloved 85-Year-Old House on East Moody Is Leveled in Heap of Surprise and Consternation

| December 29, 2015

401 east moody boulevard

The demolition in progress MOnday. (© FlaglerLive)

Gloria McArn Deen remembers how when she was in high school in the mid-1950s, she got chickenpox and had to endure the sounds of her high school band, the band she was a member of, practicing in the field behind her house without her. She remembers growing up in that house starting in the early 1940s, back when State Road 100 was a one-lane brick road that connected Bunnell to Flagler Beach. The house belonged to her grandmother, who raised Deen and lived at 401 East Moody Boulevard until her death in the early 1980s.

The now defunct Baptist church next door—it’s become the home of the Flagler Playhouse—bought the property in 1988. Nine years later Clifton and Debra Sheffield bought it for $700,000 and refurbished it richly and lovingly: they, too, had a sense of history. But there was business to think of, too.

On Monday, three day after Christmas and more than two years after initially pulling a demolition permit, Sheffield gave the dozers the go-ahead, and the 85-year-old house at 401 East Moody was leveled. (The original demolition permit had expired: he pulled a new one on Dec. 17.) By Tuesday morning all that remained of it was a heap of dirt, concrete and lumber, under the shadow of the centenarian oak at the corner of North Cherry and East Moody. The tree is not part of the demolition order.

“He did everything by the book and legally,” Mick Cuthbertson, Bunnell’s community development director, said Tuesday. “I tried to talk him out of demolishing the house but I have no legal authority to deny that demolition permit, or the city has no legal authority to deny that demolition permit.”

house demolition bunnell

The house on East Moody two years ago. ‘We’re losing our history one building at a time,’ Thea Mathen said. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

When Sheffield put a dozer on the property with plans to level the house in September 2013, members of the county historical society, four of the five members of the Bunnell City Commission, members of the city’s planning board and Bunnell residents, including Deen, all spoke against the demolition plans, even though they had no authority to stop those plans even then. They proposed moving the house to a different location, perhaps as part of the historical society’s collection, though it would take money Bunnell did not have, and most likely the intervention of county government. Voices all over Facebook also rallied to save the house.

“But as soon as it kind of settled down, interest died, and everybody went off doing their own thing,” Deen said today. She cried a little when she learned of the demolition, and by Tuesday had not gone to see what was left at the property. But she was sympathetic to the property owner, noting how much money he had tied up in the house. “He’s a businessman. Nobody can tie up that kind of money, and if you don’t have a plan for what you’re going to do with the house, if you don’t have the money to sustain it, what are you going to do it?” Deen said.

Now, Cuthbertson said, Sheffield is contemplating turning the parcel into a parking lot. Sheffield owns all but 5,000 of the block’s 54,000 square feet, the exception belonging to the Southern Bell phone company.

As recently as Dec. 21, when the county got wind of the impending—or rather revived—demolition plans, County Administrator Craig Coffey approached the county commission to solicit ideas, though he was not sounding hopeful.

A shock for many, though it was more than two years in the making.

“Commissioners, I have a short fuse on telling somebody that we may have an interest in that, I’d ask that you guys think about that,” Coffey told commissioners. “The interest that we thought of was potentially an office at the Ag Museum. It won’t quite fit in with the Ag Museum per se, or potentially the replacement of a caretaker’s house at Princess Place, because we’re essentially in an old or modular facility there. So I don’t really have a historic district to put it in, or a historic area to put it in. The owner has already secured a demolition permit.” Coffey said it would cost around $30,000 to move the house and suggested Sheffield might give the county time to put a plan together if there was a likelihood for saving the house. “I raise that issue,” Coffey told commissioners. “Please get back to me on that if you have some ideas on that issue.”

As it turned out, the possibility of saving the house, if it was there, would have needed more time, though in the owner’s thinking, it had been longer than two years.

“Government moves slow, how do you find funding for that?” Barbara Revels, who chairs the county commission, said Tuesday. She’d had conversations with Coffey about the house, but was unaware that a demolition was imminent unless the county acted. “If it got conveyed to anybody else, I didn’t know that,” Revels said.

“Big loss,” she said. “What a shame.”

Two years ago Sheffield had told the city that he had a contract from a buyer for the property, and that a Dollar general-type enterprise was a possibility there. That contract didn’t go through. Today, the property is up for sale for commercial uses. Its B-2 zoning would allow a church, offices, a school, a public use, a café or restaurant, retail stores and convenience stores and the like.

As the demolition went on, Cuthbertson got just two calls about it: “One person wanted to make sure the activity was properly permitted, which again it was, and the other person was not happy about it,” he said.

house demolition

The demolition in progress. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Thea Mathen, a member of the city’s planning and zoning board who’d spoken against the demolition two years ago, was again voc al about the moment she learned of it. “Well, it looks like the County could care less about any history!! And the City isn’t looking too good either!!,” she wrote on Facebook. “Just remember this when voting!!! A Historic House was torn down today on Moody Boulevard….it was offered to the county but I guess the Commissioners and County Administrator Coffey did not think it worthwhile.”

“We’re losing our history one building at a time,” Mathen said when reached by phone Tuesday.

The post Monday afternoon had elicited 87 responses by Tuesday morning, overwhelmingly decrying the demolition and expressing shock at the seeming suddenness of the action, though there were differences of opinion regarding whom to blame.

“I beg to disagree about County responsibility to this,” Jan Reeger, the Bunnell Realtor who’s been involved in preservation matters, wrote. “The problem lies square in the lap of the City of Bunnell. THOUSANDS of man hours have been spent over MANY years compiling programs to protect the history and improve the city. Several attempts at a CRA and several attempts at historic overlay plans have all failed to be adopted. This could have been avoided and it is not the end of a future that will make Bunnell more of a shanty town instead of the pleasant traditional little town it could have been.”

“It’s horribly sad; and I, too, had no idea it was happening,” Gail Wadsworth, the clerk of court, commented on Mathen’s post. “There are so many stories – so[m]e great ghost tales by Daisy herself – triggered when I pass it.”

John Rogers, the city commissioner who’d opposed demolition two years ago, said by phone: “I have mixed emotions about it because with the history of the building but also I do respect property owners’ rights as well.”

house demolition bunnell

All that was left Tuesday morning. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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32 Responses for “A Beloved 85-Year-Old House on East Moody Is Leveled in Heap of Surprise and Consternation”

  1. tony says:

    This is a terrible shame. The city should have used the same demolition contractor to take down the trailers at the new city hall instead of the mess that was made, which is a real pretty site driving into town. When I first saw their mess, I know we are bombing ISIS i was thinking they missed their mark a little. Remember folks we have a city election coming up, we need a change !!!!

  2. My thoughts says:

    A shame indeed. An excellent example of craftsman style architecture. Harder and harder to find, except in books. Too bad they’ve lots all that fine detailing and carpentry work.

  3. Algernon says:

    Any elected official who knew of the demolition permit should have contacted the press, including Flagler Live. It’s just that simple. And, what about the departing and/or incoming Bunnell City Manager. Did either one know? If so, maybe silence was dereliction of duty.

    Letting this happen over the holidays maybe because no one was looking is just a shame. There should be consequences.

  4. Outsider says:

    I smell a rat. For 30 grand I would have moved it to my property out on 305, if only I had know it’s destruction was imminent. Shame on anyone who covered this up, as there is no doubt it was kept a secret.

  5. Jim says:

    Mr Sheffield could have saved money by letting the city garbage dept do the work. They did such as nice job on one of their trailers by the new city hall. I have not been by there for a while, but after reading tonys comment I drove by to check it out. I think the men made a mistake thinking it was at the curb for pickup since they were trying to use the same equipment they use to pick up somebody’s beat up furniture. Only in Bunnell !

  6. Christine says:

    Another one of the few remaining old homes destroyed – for what? Another ugly parking lot? Perhaps another strip mall would add the the general ugliness of Bunnell or more auto repair or used car lots. People wonder why Bunnell is considered a joke. This is one of the reasons. No pride and no sense of history at all. Disgusting.

  7. Jo-Anne Mione says:

    Its a shame there is always only a handful of people who live here in the city & give a crap.Weve had buildings on the southside should have been dozed 30 years ago. This house was pretty & with a few others in this immediate area made driving around a pleasure.

  8. James w says:

    I agree Algernon. Awareness is the best campaign to get things done in the private sector. Shame on the officials for not getting the word out there. There are more than a few “old timers” of Bunnell that could have stroked a check to have it moved. Years ago I lived in St Cloud FL and they had a fund set up to move and relocate old historic houses. They weren’t all set up at once but they were all moved and till this you can go there and they have all of them set up in a small part of town and people can view them and view older artifacts that people have donated. Just like a museum. Bunnell/Flagler should have done better.

  9. Lord Help Us says:

    I agree, once the permit was applied for it should have been reported in the media. It isn’t every day that such a permit is issued. We know one Bunnell City employee knew about it–the same one that said the book was followed. It seems to me this was done quietly because so many people opposed last time it was considered. What better way to do it without objection…if no one knows, no one objects…..just cries about it after the fact. I cannot understand why one would spend $700k on real estate, put more money into it and then tear it down to make a parking lot. Why didn’t the owner put it up for sale and see if he could recover his money? Something is not adding up here. Every County Commissioner is responsible….they had plenty of time to come up with a plan, and they have failed us again! It is sad to see this beautiful structure be destroyed. There had to be something that it could be used for, or someone who would have bought it. Seems like this blog reports on every fart that is blows in the wind, but where were they when the permit to demolish this structure was applied for?

  10. steve miller says:

    Get over it!

  11. Think about it says:

    In today’s world who would buy $700000 property that close to the housing authority the property was merely a glimpse of its former historical relevance

  12. Pete says:

    TONY I think you hit the nail on the head it did look like a air strike. But it is a shame I came here in the 70s and things have not changed much. The old house next to the Citgo could be next. No on the City or County Officals care. Lets make way for a parking lot. That will bring a lot of people to look kids at the parking lot.

  13. confidential says:

    This is Florida politicians always giving in our historical sites to greedy developers paving over every inch of land erasing our reminiscences! A Dollar Store potential or any other franchise on that corner will be just one more eyesore reminder for low wages and cheap stuff merchandiser! Very Sad!

  14. Anonymous says:

    now to bulldoze the rest of the bad part of bunnell….lets start building higher dollar properties and see if the herd can be thinned of the bunnell trash

  15. Dave says:

    The little city didn’t have the money to move it. Move on people nothing to see here anymore. It’s gone.

  16. Geezer says:

    Another piece of old Florida is lopped off, and so it goes….
    I’d be very angry if I was a native Floridian or Bunnellian.

    The rat race is in full swing here, and I can’t believe I’m
    writing this. All that you love is under attack by greedy,
    well-heeled individuals who could care less about the community,
    while the community fitfully sleeps….

    Bye bye, quaint and pretty downtown Bunnell.
    Farewell my dear old friend.

    Instead of a potato as the Bunnell logo, why not a bulldozer
    with sacks of money atop – with the blaring sun showing a scowl?

    Yes, I’d be very angry if I were you. This is but a harbinger of
    things to come dear people…..


  17. Think about it says:

    this is ridiculous the only historical significance was its age the house was renovated in 1988 just because its old doesn’t give it value. there is nothing historical value at this address it is commercial land look at the price that was paid obviously the purchaser had a plan when they purchased it the seller clearly profited yet we feel the need to demonize local officials. sorry but they got it right it was bought and sold legally in a free market no injustice was done here

  18. Charles Rice says:

    As a “native Bunnellien” this doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t know this man personally so I don’t have his side of the story, but from what I read here he bought a old property in Bunnell which by the way he also grew up in Bunnell. Paid out of pocket $700,000 then renovated it and if I’m correct there still stands a sign on the property where he tried to sell or lease it.

    After realizing that nobody would pay that much for it to run a business out of ( it is zoned for commercial use) he tried to do what he could to recoup his loss. After everyone jumped down his back about pushing it down he called it off and gave everyone 2 years!!!! To try to do something with it. He can even be quoted on other Facebook post as saying he tried to give it to the city which turned it down then tried to give it to others who also turned it down.

    What else was this man suppose to do? Eat what we could assume was a quarter million dollar loss! If everyone is so emotionally damaged about this then why after the first time when this was brought up did people not start a fund raiser or donate time, money, and recourses to find a solution? Instead nobody did anything about it and he had to do what he could.

    It’s his property he paid for it so he can do what he wants. My Great Uncle Jack had a beautiful house in Bunnell and when he passed he donated it to the city to make it into a library. My family and I spent many holidays there having orange fights in the back yard and listening to him play his piano while 40+ original “Bunnillians”sat around and reminisced about the good old days before there was even a Palmcoast or red lights. But guess what the house wasn’t ever turned into a Libary in his honor instead it’s was used by teens and homeless people to drink, screw, and do drugs in.

    I would rather have that house pushed over and something productive done with it even if it’s overflow parking for the elementary school across the street. Instead of walking threw there with my older cousin years after he passed and seeing needles, graffiti, beer bottles and used condoms littering the same floor where we once sat and admired the great men and women who are responsible for this town in the first place.

    Get over it people the history of this town left when there were little champs, pizza huts, and drug deals happening in broad day light years ago.

  19. Jim says:

    Sounds to me like the city and county officials might have got a little hush money. Everybody knows you can not keep a secret in Bunnell, yet know one knew about it until it was to late.You do not have to be a brain surgeon to figure this deal out !

  20. Think about it says:

    @ Charles Rice I knew your Great Uncle and I respect your position on this issue the home of Jack Klegg is a prime example of what happens to a “Historical Location”. Not one person who is so outraged cared at all the giant for sale sign you drove by everyday may have been a clue no conspiracy or money laundering just the good old capitalist engine making progress where need be.

  21. jasonb says:

    I’m a Bunnelll native and a second generation Floridian, and I couldn’t care less, the legal owner did what they wanted with it. It’s not Stonehenge, it’s just an old house, get over it.

  22. Catherine says:

    Joanie Mitchell got it right in her song, “Big Yellow Taxi”- “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”! It’s just a shame that something couldn’t have been done to save that lovely home. I’ve always loved the small town charm that Bunnell had. Over the years I’d come to appreciate the efforts of the citizens to not let Bunnell go by the wayside like so many old Florida towns that faded away when I-95 diverted traffic and business away from US1. I also recall hearing people say they didn’t want Bunnell to become another Palm Coast. Unfortunately all of that has happened. While it may be true that the home didn’t have any historical significance, it was surely nicer to look at than another parking lot. There has been too much of Florida lost in both it’s natural beauty and in beautiful older buildings. The city commissioners and the citizens of Bunnell need to have some serious talks about what direction the town needs to take in order to preserve what beauty is still left! Stronger Planning and Zoning would be a good place to start.

  23. Everything changes says:

    Charles Rice-
    If the county respected what Jack Clegg donated then the county administrator would have done something to clean the mess up and see that Jack’s donation was appreciated and preserved whether it was opened as a library or not. It would be a great story time place, or a place for some kind of activity to keep his memory alive. Bunnell is not what it used to be, it never is going to be. Bunnell has lost the small home town feeling. I would like to have seen the real estate that was torn down to be turned into a business of some sort. Renting the space would have brought in some return. Flagler County Abstract will be next….it has been for sale for quite a while.

  24. Outsider says:

    First of all, the for sale sign was presumably for the whole property, and at a price no one could afford for a residence. I live outside of Bunnell and drive through it quite frequently, and go as quickly as legally allowed because, frankly, it looks like a shit hole. My point is that had the imminent demolition been made public, I could have made a deal that would have saved the owner the demolition costs by paying for the move to my property if the owner would have given me the house. History could have been preserved, I could have improved my property for a very good price, and all would be happy. Instead, it was demolished under a cloak of secrecy, thus destroying any good will I and others may have held for whatever future business arises there. Now, many are ticked off, and a lovely parking lot will be added to the multitude of bars, liquor stores, tattoo parlors and gas stations that adorn the now bigger shit hole called Bunnell. It was a bad decision all around.

  25. Jeannie says:

    People had two years to do something. Nothing was done by anyone. Why didn’t anyone on here complaining now step up and do something in the last two years?

  26. Cyd Weeks says:

    What are you talking about a ‘secret’…no one knew about it… From 2013!

  27. confidential says:

    Just the white French doors in that house were a little fortune!! Why not to offer the house for recycle at least other than adding a pile of additional debris to our landfill. Sad that we discard and destroy so much still good and usable stuff with all the homeless and needy that could be given to…

  28. Anonymous says:

    So an OLD house on commercial property was torn down? It was NOT a famous home by any means it was just kinda old85 yrs. This was done by the owners within the laws we still have some private property rights in this once great republic.

  29. YankeeExPat says:

    Couldn’t make the trip to Oregon Anonymous?

  30. Anonymous says:

    Still crying over the demise of the USSR YankeeExPat??

  31. Tammie says:

    I am sure that Clif hated to tear the house down, he was born and raised in Bunnell. No one cared when he invested so much money in the house. I am a 3rd generation Bunnell girl and know him very well, a man has to do what a man has to do. He tried. Ya’ll just remember no one can take your memories of what once was.

  32. YankeeExPat says:

    No Anonymous, Much to the chagrin of my so called native Floridians, I, as my ancestors celebrate April 9, 1865.

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