There was some spectacular coverage in the media regarding the situation including
articles in the Daily Times, the Inquirer, on KYW Radio and in the News of Delaware County
and on Facebook. What was most heartening is that the stories did not make anyone bad
and wrong ....They simply reported on the diffeent views regarding a situation and I believe
the hope of using our history for the benefit of all of us, won. As was said at the time, now
the real work begins. Join the friends of 715 Darby Terrace
Historic Battle (Daily Times...July 21)
By TIMOTHY LOGUE
DARBY BOROUGH — The history of the old house nesting in overgrown grass at 715 Darby Terrace is a bit murky.
The best guess is that the foundation dates back at least 250 years and may be the last remaining structure in the
borough situated along the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route – the 680-mile path Continental and
French soldiers took from Newport, Rhode Island, to the decisive battle of the American Revolutionary War in
“When the French came to help us in the Revolutionary War, they literally marched through each city,” said Jan
Haigis, a member of the Darby Borough Historical Commission (DBHC). “They went through Philadelphia (and)
straight though Darby right past this house.”
The quarter-acre property, which sits atop a small hill between Verlenden Avenue and Whitely Terrace, has been
abandoned for years, stripped of its metals by scrappers, and become a regular stop for trespassers and illegal
With back taxes, citations from the borough, and garbage continuing to accrue, owner Davoud Baravordeh applied
for a demolition permit last month.
“I offered to donate it to the borough but they didn't want to take possession of it unless I knocked it down,” said
Baravordeh, president of DB Enterprises, Developers/Builders of Prospect Park. “They said they didn't have the
money to deal with it.”
Unless something changes, borough officials have no plans to interfere with Baravordeh's plans.
“It's been a problem for a long, long time,” said council President Janice Davis. “Nobody is in there, the debris
keeps piling up from people dumping there, it's a safety hazard, and there's no one who's come forward with any
money to do the upkeep.”
For the last month, John Haigis, Jan's husband and the chairman of the DBHC, has been scrambling to find a
buyer or, at the very least, assurances the building will not be leveled while he explores different avenues to save it.
“I'm looking for some kind of win-win solution,” he said. “I know there is frustration on the borough's part – and they
are correctly concerned about the health, safety and welfare of (residents), but I think there's an opportunity to do
something spectacular here and we already have plenty of vacant lots in Darby.”
A demolition delay ordinance passed after the controversial 2005 razing of the 325-year-old Bunting Friendship
Freedom House requires council to hold a public hearing on the proposed demolition of historically significant
properties in the borough.
The meeting for 715 Darby Terrace is scheduled for Monday night. If council finds no reason to block
Baravordeh's permit request, it would likely be approved at the board's August meeting.
“I'm sorry about the history part of it but if no one is going to come forward to care for the building I don't know why
we would stop him from tearing it down,” Davis said.
On Friday, Baravordeh said his preference was to find a buyer or, with council's approval, rehab the building
“When I bought the property (in 1994), there were nine occupied apartments,” he said. “I knew it was going to need
work and it was my intention to do the work. Every person who owned it before me had modified it in some way and
I wanted to renovate it but I couldn't do that while it was occupied.”
After clearing out the tenants, Baravordeh said he made some minor improvements to the building before
approaching the borough for permits.
“Because it had been unoccupied for more than six months, they told me I would need a variance,” he said. “Even
though I wanted to use it for the same (purpose) as before – apartments – they said it was non-conforming.
“After a while, I got frustrated and walked away. I didn't want to pay a couple thousand dollars to hire a lawyer to
argue in front of the board. I thought, ‘It's not really worth it.'”
With back taxes, citations from the borough, and garbage on the property continuing to accrue, Baravordeh, a
Middletown resident who has completed townhouse developments in Springfield and is pushing for another in
Norwood, opted for the demolition permit.
“I would prefer to keep it a historic site and I have been talking to John (Haigis) about possible buyers,” he said. “I
plan to meet with him (today) as well.”
Baravordeh never pursued the zoning change that could allow the property to come back to life as an apartment
building but said he might consider that route with support from the borough.
“To fix all the individual apartments – with new plumbing, new electrical, new everything, it might cost $150,000,” he
said. “I don't know why it's necessary to change the use but if (the borough) feels that's the way to go forward and
renovate, I can spend the money for (a variance).
“Right now we can still save it. If we wait much longer, it will be beyond saving.”
Baravordeh said he would part with the property, which he believes could be subdivided to accommodate six to
eight twin homes, for about $75,000.
In addition to broken windows, walls covered in graffiti and chunks of plaster, lathe, drywall, and other debris
littering every room in the three-story house, there are also different styles of construction to contend with thanks
to multiple additions.
“An architect from the University of Pennsylvania believes the house was redone in the 1880s and the bathrooms
may have been done in the 1920s,” Mr. Haigis said. “You have to do some building forensics to figure out how
these old houses evolved and what happened when. There is still a lot we don't know.”
Ideally, he and his wife would like to see the property restored for an owner-occupied use, such as a bed and
breakfast or for a historical purpose.
“Heritage tourism is one of the few growth industries that we have at this point and time for smaller towns,” Mrs.
Haigis said, “and it would be a boon for Darby.”
Davis said she is open to any solution that leads to the repair and upkeep of the property.
“We get a lot of complaints from the residents in that area who are tired of looking at it and want it taken care of,”
she said. “If somebody comes forward with a concrete plan to start cleaning it up and working on it immediately,
we'll listen. What we don't want to see if someone buy it and let it sit for another year or two.”
Baravordeh will not be attending the public hearing on Monday – he will be in Bermuda – but said he is willing to
work toward a solution.
“I really don't want to take it down,” he said.
EDITORIAL: Guardians of history try to save Darby home
News of Delaware County, July 23
An historic property in Darby Borough has earned a reprieve. The owner of an old stone home at 715 Darby Road
has agreed to wait six months before demolishing the structure.
That will give those who wish to save the building some time to figure out an alternative.
But not much time.
As residents of one of the oldest developed areas of the country, we are often faced with a dilemma. How do we
preserve our more than 200-year-old history while making room for progress and new development? Secondary to
that, how do we separate out what actually has historical value from something that’s just an old abandoned
The Darby Borough Historical Commission, headed by John Haigis, describes the property (on a lot between
Verlenden Avenue and Whitely Terrace) as a spot where residents witnessed Continental and French soldiers
marching to the Yorktown campaign in 1781. It’s estimated parts of the home were built more than 250 years ago,
though researchers are still trying to piece together a history on the building. In August, researchers from the
University of Delaware will descend on the home to do just that.
“The value of the demolition delay ... is that it gives us time to reflect on something before it is lost forever,” Haigis
stated in a Delaware County Daily Times article posted Monday. In an email to this newspaper, Haigis questioned
the need to knock the building down.
“Does it need work? After 250 years, of course, but the roof is in reasonable shape and the beams and foundations
are strong,” he wrote. “We already have too many vacant lots and have lost too much of our history.”
The owner is willing to sell the property for $75,000 but it will take a lot more money than that to restore the building.
The property, currently vacant, has attracted trash dumping and trespassers. Haigis says the historical commission
will search for a buyer during the six month reprieve and has agreed to clean up the trash at the property in the
We applaud the owner for the demolition delay and for giving the historians a chance to work on the problem. And
we hope that a practical use for the property can be found that will recognize its historical value and eliminate a
News of Delaware County, July 23, 2014