Controversial Savin Hill house demolished

Demolition crews took down 24 Grampian Way in a few hours on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

After months of controversy, a home on Savin Hill with a landmark designation was torn down this week as neighborhood residents remained in the dark about what the future holds for the parcel at 24 Grampian Way. A demolition vehicle moved onto the property and began dismantling the dilapidated structure on Tuesday.

The city’s Landmarks Commission designated the house a landmark last year, but the City Council, in a rare move, voted to override the designation in mid-December, at its last meeting of the year. The vote was 12 to 0, with District Councillor Frank Baker voting “present,” because he lives diagonally across from the home.

The home had ties to George Wright, a giant in American sports history whose family bought the home in 1887. A local wealthy industrialist, William Prescott Hunt, and a whale oil merchant, John Kehew, had also owned the home, which came to be known as the “Wright-Kehew House” because of its historical ties.

The property also housed a stable, which was taken down last year for safety reasons. Landmarks Commission officials argued the rest of the property could be preserved, citing its “fanciful, Stick style.”

But the family of the late Ray Tomasini, which owned the property, pushed for the demolition, and when the commission rejected their request, the heirs lobbied the Council to overturn the decision, arguing that the designation would make it difficult for them to sell the home, which had fallen into severe disrepair.

The presence of the construction vehicles sparked a discussion at the Monday night meeting of the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association. Most residents expect the home will be replaced with condominiums.

“The neighborhood would’ve happily met on how to develop 24 Grampian,” said Bill Walczak, the former head of Carney Hospital and Codman Square Health Center. “The family opted not to.”

Walczak said the demolition sets the stage for other large family lots to get replaced with condominiums, noting, “This sets a very bad precedent for neighborhoods with large lots that can be developed.”