Local home gets historic zoning despite concerns

The Clinton Campbell House may be granted historic preservation, against the wishes of its owners. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

Despite protests from the current owner of the property, the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission voted to begin a zoning process to protect a house built in 1895 as a historic property.

The Commission initiated historic preservation zoning overlay on the home on Tuesday. The overlay will begin the process of having the property gain historic recognition, but it prevented the building from being demolished by the current property owner.

The home, located at 357 N. 4th Ave., was originally built by prominent Phoenix builder Clinton Campbell. According to Arizona Preservation Foundation President Jim McPherson, it is one of 50 buildings from the 19th century that are still left in Phoenix, commercial or residential.

Campbell was a prominent carpenter and builder in Phoenix in the early 1900s. He ran the Campbell, Connell & Co. contracting business and formed Phoenix Brick Yard. Some of his work includes major structures for Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, among others. He was considered “one of the most successful contractors of Western Arizona,” according to the Arizona Republican.

While the building has inherent historical significance, the current owner of the land was unaware of the importance at the time he bought it due to a record-keeping error from a few decades ago, which reported that the building had already been demolished.

“We simply disagree with the idea of putting a historic preservation overlay on the property,” said Adam Baugh, the attorney for the property owner.

While he expressed understanding of the historic significance of the building, he also pointed out certain information presented that could have been misleading in regard to the importance of the building. For example, Baugh said Campbell actually lived in a nearby house, which has already been demolished, for much longer than the one in question.

Baugh also said this will drive away potential buyers of the property. Baugh went on to list the steps his client had gone through when background-checking the property.

“My client acted in good faith, he did all the things that he should do in evaluating properties before [he purchases] them,” Baugh said.

Despite the objections raised by the property owner’s attorney, the overlay passed unanimously.

“I find this particular situation tragic, I am sorry that there were mistakes made,” Sherry Rampy, a member of the commission, said. “As a preservationist, it is very clear that this building should be retained for this city.”

Although the vote and support for the zoning overlay was unanimous, members of the commission expressed sympathy for the property owner, giving their apologies. This didn’t stop the decision to move to the next phase of historical recognition however.

“The notion that because of a record-keeping error a generation ago, we’re going to lose this gem is, well, that would be a tragedy,” said Tim Eigo, who is chair for the Downtown Voices Coalition and spoke in support of the zoning overlay. “And it’s a tragedy that is avoidable.”

The overlay puts a hold on the demolition of the building while historic recognition is decided. It also prohibits any construction from being made on the building that would change the historic character of the exterior. The next step is a public meeting that will be held at a future undecided time.

Contact the reporter at jgilmore8@asu.edu.