Manassas’s 9300 Prescott Ave. home sees likely resolution to weary story — The Washington Post

Manassas’s 9300 Prescott Ave. home sees likely resolution to weary story - The Washington Post

Manassas’s 9300 Prescott Ave. home sees likely resolution to weary story

For the better part of 20 years, the stately home at 9300 Prescott Ave. in Manassas has been in disrepair, a symbol to many of the town’s neglected history. Much debate produced little action to save the sagging structure, which had been scheduled for demolition last week.

But on Saturday, Hugh Ickrath, a neighbor from two doors down, led a group of 15 curious townspeople for a look inside the musty premises, revealing that he and two other investors had managed to purchase 9300 Prescott for $118,750 at a short sale held before the bulldozer arrived.

“It’s Christmas,” said neighbor Harriet Carter before she and others entered the home, wondering what they would find. Carter has looked at the decaying house almost since 1985, when she moved in across the street.

The Queen Anne-style home had waited and waned since then, deteriorating almost beyond recognition.The home’s wide, Southern porch had visibly weakened to a point at which the town had strung yellow hazard tape from pillar to pillar. Plywood covered its windows on the first floor, its pointed roof warped, and flaking white paint all around the aged Victorian revealed weathered wood.

Neighbors implored the city to step in and save a civic treasure; conservatives, led by the local tea party, implored them not to.

Hugh Ickrath negotiated the short sale on the dilapidated house. (Jared Soares/For The Washington Post)

The debate dragged on for years, as longtime owner Dorothy Feaganes received exasperated pleas from the city to maintain the property. Eventually, officials said that demolition was their only option.

But Ickrath, 48, the neighbor who’d fought longest and hardest to save the home, refused to buckle.

He had spent years trying to wrest control of the home from various banks that held the mortgage. At one point, he left a phone message for Bank of America’s chief executive, imploring him to foreclose on 9300 Prescott so it could be sold. An assistant called back, but the bank declined to act.

Indeed, as much of Prince William County was hit by a dramatic wave of foreclosures, 9300 Prescott somehow stood above the fray — and beyond the reach of bankers.

As the end approached in recent weeks, Ickrath consulted a lawyer and asked what charges he might face if he stood in the bulldozer’s path.

Finally, he negotiated the short sale, purchasing the property for less than was owed on the mortgage with the blessing of owner Dorothy Feaganes’s daughter, Terry.

Larry Linton, a fellow Prescott Avenue neighbor and old-house lover who owns five other historic homes, went in with Ickrath, as did Ickrath’s father-in-law, George Dowd. They say they are committed to seeing the restoration through.

“Emotional,” Ickrath said Saturday, summing up his feelings after finally taking possession of the property. Losing a piece of the city, a piece of American history, would have been unbearable, Ickrath said.

“We would have had to look at that gaping hole,” he said.

Likely constructed in 1906, the year after a fire decimated the town, 9300 Prescott sits at the entrance to Manassas’s historic district.

Over the years, the back and forth between the city, the courts, the neighbors and Feaganes has become the stuff of legend, captivating preservationists on one side and conservatives on the other, who thought using public funds to fix up private property was the height of government overreach.

On Saturday, as Ickrath opened the mysterious padlocked home for the first time in years, he touched off a spontaneous outpouring among neighbors.

From the outside, the home was a wreck. A barbed-wire fence had been erected to keep out squatters. Boards were missing from its porch, the columns were split, and exposed bare wood was everywhere.

But inside, Ickrath’s flashlight revealed a startlingly different picture: wood floors were solid and didn’t creak or sag; “pocket doors,” which slide into the wall, were intact in the kitchen, and a wide, 10-foot Victorian-era door still separated a front sitting room from the foyer.

Original molding and plaster construction remained on walls, ceilings and a dramatic, steep staircase.

Sadly, damage was also much in evidence. Walls and floors were pockmarked and torn. Thieves had torn open a wall to steal copper pipes. Spots on the ceiling indicated water damage.

Manassas’s 9300 Prescott Ave. home sees likely resolution to weary story - The Washington Post

Still, the new owners rejoiced at the home’s condition while other neighbors took turns blasting the city for almost destroying the place.

Many had thought that the home was already on its way to repair. An anonymous Virginia man, dubbed the Mysterious Anonymous Benefactor, a friend of Dorothy Feaganes’s late husband, saw a newspaper article about the place and offered to restore it to allow Feaganes to live out her remaining years there this spring. Permits were filed. Work commenced.

Feaganes, in her late 80s and in poor health, died soon thereafter. The work stopped. Feaganes’s children didn’t seem to want to take on the project, said their mother’s former lawyer.

Efforts to reach the Feaganes family were unsuccessful.

City Manager John Budesky said the home would be demolished the first week of June if the Feaganes family didn’t find a solution.

That’s when Ickrath sprung into action with renewed fervor. He managed to have the short sale approved on Friday after much cajoling, more than a dozen phone calls to Terry Feaganes, and rushed back-and-forth negotiations with the city and the house’s bank, Reverse Mortgage Solutions.

Last year, Manassas Mayor Harry “Hal” Parrish II (R) stunned many when he broke a 3 to 3 council tie on the issue, saying the house must be fixed or the city would demolish it under state blight laws.

Parrish said Saturday that a “private-sector solution” is one he has always advocated for and was glad it had come to pass.

“You have to give [Ickrath] great credit,” he said.

Ickrath wasted little time this weekend. Freshly stacked plywood sat in his truck Saturday, and workers passed the pieces, two at a time, under the fence. Work commenced immediately on the dilapidated porch.

Ickrath and the others hope to restore the house and then sell it to a family. As with all things Prescott House, the city has issued another ultimatum: Ickrath has 30 days to fix the porch and a back stoop, and secure a crumbling chimney. He has 45 days to put in new windows and make the place presentable. It’s a short time frame. But Ickrath said he has been assured by experts — some of whom live in the neighborhood — that it can be done.

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