A 140-year-old house in downtown San Luis Obispo was saved from demolition by the City Council this week.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to add the two-story, redwood-framed building at 546 Higuera St. to the city’s master list of historic resources — the highest level of local historic significance.
Developer John Belsher of PB Companies plans to redevelop the property, near the Creamery, which includes the historic home and a 33-space mobile home park known as Mission Trailer Park, into a new modular home project. Formal plans for the project have not yet been submitted to the city.
Belsher, who had planned to demolish the home, paid for a required historic evaluation of the structure, which concluded that the property was not eligible for the city’s master list of historic resources.
However, local historian Betsy Bertrando found the house dated even further than originally thought.
Built in 1874, it was originally the home of David Norcross, the sheriff in San Luis Obispo from 1871 to 1877. Norcross was also president of the San Luis Obispo Railroad, which played a significant role in bringing the Pacific Coast Railroad to the area. Norcross lived there until his death in 1889.
The home was later inhabited by Dr. James Sinclair, who was the lead surgeon at San Luis Obispo County Hospital from 1896 to 1902.
The Gothic Revival-style home has been neglected for years and is now uninhabitable because of structural issues.
“It’s a historically significant house in horrible condition,” said Phil Dunsmore, the city's senior planner. “It has seen a lot of floods, droughts and parties and has just been destroyed.”
However, he said, that poor condition doesn’t detract from its historic value.
The developer must now preserve, rehabilitate, relocate or reconstruct the home.
Dunsmore said the developer does not plan to move it.