Janesville preservationists work to save 145-year-old house

Janesville preservationists work to save 145-year-old house

The central fire house in Janesville is one step closer to breaking ground, but before that happens, there is one house that still needs a new place to call home.

For months, historic preservationists have been trying to save what locals refer to as “the yellow house” on Milton Avenue from demolition.

The house is the last of 12 homes that have to go to make room for the new central fire station; the others have been demolished.

“It needs a home and nobody else was coming forward to save it,” Janesville resident Fred Harmon said.

Although the 145-year-old house is worn down and needs over $100,000 worth of work done, Harmon’s vision for its future is crystal clear.

“The beauty of the old houses, the craftsmanship that they are made with, the design — it’s just neat stuff,” he said.

Harmon plans to save the home from its neighbors’ fate by moving the house across the street onto a lot he is in the process of buying.

“I was concerned that the city council maybe didn’t want to contribute a little more money to save this, but they stepped up and did the right thing,” said Tom Skinner, a member of Citizen Advocates for Preservation.

The council voted to allow $28,500 in city funds to be used to help move the yellow house out of the construction area of the new firehouse — a relief for Skinner, who has been working to preserve other historic buildings in the area.

“We’ve lost countless numbers of historic homes and buildings over the years. In the ’50s and ’60s, many of the buildings were taken down. So the few examples that we have, we want to keep for future generations to enjoy and appreciate,” Skinner said.

Harmon, who expects to spend around $100,000 on the restoration, admits it’s not a small task and said it all comes down to having a passion for historic preservation.

Harmon has until April 19 to close on the lot and move the house. Even with the short amount of time, he said he is hopeful he will make the deadline.