Former state senator preserving one of Tyler’s oldest homes

Former state senator preserving part of Tyler’s oldest home
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 2:55 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2023 at 9:14 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - One of the oldest homes in Tyler is in the process of being preserved.

The Bell-Jones House on College Avenue was built in the late 1840′s and has not been occupied in over 20 years.

Historic Tyler Executive Director Ashley Washmon says back in 2021 the owner at the time wanted to demolish the house completely and build new housing.

“And we opposed that change. Simply for the integrity of the street. Ongoing historic preservation is so important because once a structure gets too far gone, you can’t replace it.”

Just last spring, former state Senator Kevin Eltife gained ownership of the property and has taken on the preservation project.

“How can we try to save some part of this house for the historical significance?”

Unfortunately, the main structure of the home was deteriorating and had to be demolished.

“It would have probably cost $200,000 or $300,000 to salvage it. And the majority of the main structure wasn’t even the original structure.” said Eltife.

Washmon added, “It was precarious. You had to watch where you walked. You could see the ground through the floor and it just needed a substantial amount of work. And unfortunately Historic Tyler didn’t have the funds to pour into that property.”

So Eltife and Historic Tyler decided to keep the facade with the original columns and overhang. As for the backside, he plans to turn it into a green space and add azaleas to represent the city.

“More than anything, I care about keeping a neighborhood safe and as beautified as possible; you know, it affects the other neighbors. It affects people who own property in the area if you have a falling-down house. So I think this was the best of all worlds.”

Eltife says the project is estimated to be completed in the next six months.

You can hear more from former Sen. Eltife about the home in the video below:

One of the oldest homes in Tyler is in the process of being preserved.

+ Oldest house in Tyler to remain standing after owner abandons plan to demolish it

+ Historic Tyler continues with historic preservation projects through the pandemic