Couple’s dream project hits snag
A dream to bring an art-based bed and breakfast has proven to be a frustrating endeavor for Christy Carlisle and her husband, Paul.
Carlisle owns and runs C. Design's Floral in north Baldwin, right off County Road 1055 close to Baldwin High School. What she and Paul have wanted to do for several years now is build a bed and breakfast at the 215 N. Sixth location. However, the State Historic Preservation Office has said the couple can't tear down the house currently on the site because it's of the same era as the Quayle House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is across the street.
"Dreams take time," said Carlisle. "But are they really supposed to take forever?"
The farmhouse currently on the site has been there since 1903, but is not on the National Register. Like any house that is 100 years old, it has problems -- most notably a foundation that won't hold it up for another century. After having numerous experts look at the house it was determined that it just wouldn't be cost effective to fix it. A better plan was to tear it down and replace it with a farmhouse-type bed and breakfast with a wrap-around porch and all the amenities.
"If there was any way I could repair that house without breaking the bank, I would -- I raised my family there," she said. "Anyone who knows me knows I'm a tree-hugger and a person that believes in keeping heritage alive. This isn't it.
"What prompted this whole thing is our foundation is slipping and eventually will fall down. It may take time, but it will happen," said Carlisle. "That's what started this whole thing. We got bids on the foundation, they couldn't guarantee the walls. We got bids on the walls, they couldn't guarantee the roof. The bids got to the point that it was cheaper to build a new home than it was to repair the damage done by nature and the extent of time."
With that in mind, the dream of a bed and breakfast began in earnest. Plans popped into mind and were put on paper.
"We see this as a complete complex," said Carlisle. "What a great concept to have a flower shop, a greenhouse and gardens next to a bed and breakfast with flagstone patios, grape arbors and many other such features. It just kind of works well together.
"We wanted to keep it within the style of Baldwin," she said. "It would be a two-story wrap-around porch farmhouse style that will attach into the old flower shop to allow a reception area with all the pretties -- hard-wood floors, etc., all the things that should be here."
There would also be another new flower shop, which would be a bungalow-type farm home to the south of the complex. All of the space and improvements would allow for art classes, a ceramics studio, an environment for artist to share ideas, etc., and seminars.
It all sounded good ... too good, evidently.
"The city thinks it's great. The planning commission thinks it's great. Financing isn't a problem. We thought we were home free," said Carlisle, "but because we are within 300 feet of a national landmark (the Quayle home) we were told we needed permission from the State Historic Preservation Office. We applied and sent them drawings, blueprints and pictures of what we wanted to do.
"They loved it, but when they found out we planned to tear down or remove the old house, they said that was an encroachment on the property across the street," she said. "The state says that's not an option. I even asked them to come down and inspect. I was told that wasn't necessary. I asked her to come have tea in the room we lovingly call the meat locker. All this was based on a 4-by-6 picture we sent."
That's put the whole project in a holding pattern. If the house is torn down, it could leave Carlisle and the city -- which has the final say in the matter -- liable. That concerns Carlisle, who really doesn't want to make waves, but wants to build their dream.
"I normally don't take a political stand, but I think I'm going to have to fight this one," she said, adding that a similar case has gone to the Supreme Court. "We've rolled up our sleeves and done research to prove to the state that our house is separate from the one across the street. A new farmhouse built has more appeal than something caving in from 1903.
"My point is what right do they have to tell me what I can do with my old house that's on my property that I pay commercial taxes on," Carlisle said.
Still, the grand plan is on hold. But, that hasn't stopped Carlisle from moving on. She's opened a new store, The Collective, in the old house, which will feature a collection of art work, seasonal items and gifts.
"The old saying when you have lemons, make lemonade comes into play," she said. "This process could take two years, so we've moved our family back into FireTree and will use the space for my first love -- pottery, art work, found treasures, lots of found treasures."
In the meantime, the dream will stay alive, she says.
"We like being an active part of the Baldwin community with all of the charm and we really enjoy having the flower shop and meeting so many great people. It is our intention to stay," Carlisle said. "We just hope we are able to grow a little."