Meir’s Denver Home Faces Demolition

The former home of Golda Meir has lost the latest — and perhaps last — round in its six-year battle for survival. The City’s Building Department Board of Appeals voted unanimously January 15 to demolish the house unless a savior appears within 30 days.

The Board concluded that the house presents a public health hazard and that funds to fix it are not readily available. The dilapidated duplex, home of the late Israeli Premier from 1913-14, is resting on girders in a local park. The city is paying for liability insurance.

The Board also decided, for purposes of the ruling, that the City and County of Denver own the house. This means that the fledgling Golda Meir Memorial Association is no longer the designated custodian of the house, which is widely believed to be the last U.S. structure still standing in which Meir resided.

The Board would consider a request for a rehearing if $150,000-$250,000 were committed within 30 days for restoration and a plan were approved by the City’s Community Development Agency (CDA), according to Board chairman Ralph Nordhauser.

COURT ACTION MAY DELAY DEMOLITION

The demolition also could be delayed through court action. “We’re going to have to talk with counsel before we decide what to do,” said Association member Mel Cohen.

The Board had earlier set conditions for restoration and use of the building, including a guarantee of available funds, provision of security and a schedule of renovation. The Association replied in writing, but Cohen contended that the Board didn’t regard it seriously.

Nordhauser responded that the Board considered the response unsatisfactory in terms of safety of the building and availability of funds for restoration. The 15-member Association has drained its funds in moving the home to the park and providing security.

Nordhauser said that he has inspected the house. He added, coincidentally, that he lived in the home as a child and is Jewish.

Cohen charged that the city has violated its own commitment to work with the Association in restoration of the home. Since the election of Mayor Federico Pena in 1983, Cohen said, the city has relentlessly pressured the Association with “unreasonable” deadlines.

HOME FACED WRECKING BALL BEFORE

The home has faced the wrecking ball before. In 1981, just hours away from being demolished by its then owners, the Boys Club of America, its historical nature was discovered. A grassroots effort prevented that demolition and gained the support of the city to help finance moving the house from its original West Side location.

Several restoration efforts at the new site failed, and the building survived vandalism, including the painting of swastikas, and a fire. It was moved to the park last summer in an agreement with the City that set a time limit for the Association on restoration. In November, after several deadlines passed, CDA began pressing to either restore or demolish the house.

The Allied Jewish Federation of Denver has not endorsed the restoration project or assisted the effort financially, citing budget restraints and the need for community resources in more pressing areas.

Meir attended high school during the time she resided in the house with her sister and brother-in-law, Shana and Sam Korngold, who owned the building.

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