Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 28, 2013

Judge orders 30-day stay of demolition for historic Judge Johnston House

PRINCETON — Mercer County Circuit Court Judge William Sadler ordered a 30-day stay of demolition Wednesday in a case regarding a historic Princeton residence.

Sadler issued the 30-day stay of the city of Princeton’s order to demolish the Judge Johnston House on West Main Street to allow time for negotiations between the property owner and Mercer County Historical Society.

The Mercer County Historical Society filed an injunction on Jan. 31 to prevent scheduled demolition of the structure, also known as the Pearis-Johnston House, by the city of Princeton. Betty Cutlip, owner of the house, had agreed to let the city demolish the house after it was condemned.

Princeton City Attorney Paul Cassell said the city was willing to agree to the stay.

“The city will agree to a 30-day stay of demolition to allow the parties to work something out,” he said. “Of course, I cannot speak for Mrs. Cutlip; only for the city.”

Cassell said the city wants to allow property owner Betty Cutlip and the historical society the chance resolve the matter on their own.

“The city wants to give them time to negotiate,” he said. “There will be another hearing and we will see what both parties have decided at that time.”

 William H. Sanders, attorney for the Mercer County Historical Society, said the group is hoping to raise money to purchase the property from Cutlip.

“We have to try to put together an offer to purchase,” Sanders said. “We have several donors willing to give large sums of money to preserve this house. We will need to see how much it takes to purchase, and we would like to purchase it right now. We are looking into having the property evaluated to determine if it can be saved and how much that would cost. We will be putting together an offer.”

Sanders said the group also intends to approach the Mercer County Commission regarding the property.

“We will also be asking the Mercer County Commission if they will pursue eminent domain to attain the property,” he said.

According to the Mercer County Historical Society, the home was constructed sometime in the 1830s and part of the house burned during the Civil War when Confederate troops set fire to Princeton in 1862.

The historical society said the building is one of only three surviving homes left in Princeton from the pre-Civil War era. In the 1870s, the home was remodeled by its most notable owner, Judge David Johnston, a prominent local banker and figure in local lore regarding famed outlaw Frank James.

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com

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