by the Opelika Observer staff
For the last few years, the historic Penn Yonge House, located at the city of Opelika’s Spring Villa Park, has been what Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller called in October 2011 “a victim of blind neglect,” as the house currently features broken and rotting balconies, broken windows, chipped paint and an interior lurking with black mold and bat infestations.
At Tuesday’s Opelika City Council meeting, council members began the process of trying to restore the Opelika landmark, awarding a contract for $48,227.68 to JMarsh Enterprises, Inc., for “the completion of exterior repair and miscellaneous restorative actions.”
Items included in the scope of work presented to the council included refinishing and repairing the exterior wood siding, repairing the rotting balconies, restoring the historic finish on both existing chimneys above the roof line, removing and replacing damaged exterior doors with historic doors, and repairing all window panes.
The roof trim, stucco and exterior paint job will also be refinished.
The resolution did not cover any changes, updates or upgrades to the house’s foundation, which a former Opelika Parks and Recreation source told the Observer could have “some possible foundation problems coming.”
The 161-year-old antebellum house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and was the site of the infamous Penn Yonge murder, where local folk legend has that Yonge was murdered by a slave on the thirteenth step of the residence.
The home was in use for many years with Opelika’s Parks and Recreation Department, playing host to a portion of the Trail of Terror Halloween hayride.
However, in recent years, due to the closure of Lee Road 148, the road primarily used to reach Spring Villa Park, the number of visitors to the site dwindled and the Yonge House was allowed to fall into disrepair.
The City of Opelika 2011 fiscal year budget allocated no funds to the House and a recent resolution restructuring the Parks and Recreation department actually cut one of the two worker positions at Spring Villa.
JMarsh Enterprises has handled several restoration projects in the Lee County area, including several facade upgrades along North and South Railroad Avenues in Opelika.
City sources told the Observer that, because this contract came in under the necessary dollar amount under Alabama’s bid law to trigger open bids, JMarsh Enterprises was awarded the contract.