Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 1, 2013

Injunction halts plans to demolish historic home

GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — An injunction issued Thursday in Mercer County Circuit Court has halted plans to tear down a Main Street house with ties to Mercer County’s early history.

Judge William Sadler granted an injunction to prevent the demolition of the Judge Johnson House in Princeton, said Mercer County historian Patricia Smith, who works with the Mercer County Historical Society. A hearing about the injunction will be held Feb. 6 at the Mercer County Courthouse. It will begin at 10 a.m. in Judge Sadler’s courtroom.

The structure, also known as the Pearis Johnson House, was built sometime during the 1840s or 1850s, Smith said. Part of the house was burned in 1862 during the Civil War. It was one of only three houses to survive after Confederate troops set fire to the then town of Princeton.

“One was the McNutt House where the Princeton Chamber is now, and the second was Aspenwald, which was owned by David Hall,” Smith said. “And that was moved to where the current courthouse annex is now and then it was torn down. This Judge Johnson House was the only other one left partially standing. The rest were burned by the Confederates.”

Smith said the historcial society learned about the demolition plans last week.

 Lois Miller, president of the Mercer County Historical Society, said the house itself “is pretty solid.”

“It looks rough, but you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover,” she said. “I’ve been in the house and all through the house, and I’ve never seen any evidence of the roof leaking or anything. I think it can be restored by a historical group whether it’s us or somebody else.”

Smith said that the historical society’s members hope the city or the county will take the house by eminent domain rather than allow it to be torn down.

“Then we think the Mercer County Historical Society, the Clay Foundation and the Old Town Princeton organization can lead the way in fundraising to restore this and make it into a museum,” Smith stated. “It’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of help, but this will give us some breathing room to start the process.”

Code Enforcement Director Bill Buzzo Jr., for the city of Princeton was not available for comment Thursday.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com