The east side of the tall, bulky old house at 38 W. White St. in Summit Hill began crumbling last Labor Day, frightening neighbors. Since then, bricks have been dropping and the facade had been sagging.
Yesterday, those nearby residents' fears were quelled as a demolition crew began disassembling the three-story structure, regarded as one of the oldest structures in the hilltop community.
The large, red, brick building was recently purchased by the First Presbyterian Church, and the congregation immediately agreed to have it torn down. The deteriorated house was located next to the church parsonage with only a walkway separating the structures.
A large steam shovel from A. Joseph Bonk & Sons of Wilkes-Barre clawed into the house and brought most of the upper story down with scoop-size heaps.
The demo project could be completed this week.
"It's finally happening," said the other neighbor, Mary Risady, who along with family members have made appearances at Summit Hill Borough Council pleading for assistance in getting the dangerous situation remedied. But it was actually the church which enabled the demolition to occur.
Lisa Hiles, a member of the church, explained, "We had the opportunity to do it and it helped everybody out. The town would have gotten stuck with it."
It hasn't been determined what the church will do with the vacant lot.
The house had been owned by Michael Perno of Quakertown, who had reportedly been in prison and didn't have the financial resources to do the demolition or make repairs.
When it collapsed, it was being rented by Ken Cathcart, his girlfriend Brandi Johnson, and their two children, ages 4 and 11. The 11 a.m. collapse of part of the exterior facade forced them to flee the residence and borough officials immediately condemned the structure.
During the eight months since the initial bricks fell onto the sidewalk and garden of Risady, members of her family had appealed to the borough council for help in having something done about the old building to make their living situation safer. The council was looking at options, but determined any action taken would have financial turbulence on the taxpayers.
Lisa Hiles said her husband, David, checked to see if the church could purchase the building.
"Right at the start, an anonymous donor game $5,000 toward the project," she said. "See. There are good people in this world."
She said it hasn't been determined what will happen to the vacant lot, "but we agreed it can make value of the church property better."
Risady watched the demolition from the front porch of her house with her daughter, Donna Danchak of Albrightsville, and friends Pat Lipar and Linda Hascher of Summit Hill.
She said last year during the initial incident, a fence was destroyed and she lost some shrubs.
At that time, members of the Summit Hill Fire Department erected a barrier fence between her house and the condemned structure, but she said that had the wall totally fallen, the barrier fence would not likely have withstood the rubble assault.
Cathcart, who was contemplating purchasing the house before it began falling apart, said he believes it was constructed around 1820, noting that a mid-1840s sketch of the First Presbyterian Church and its neighboring parsonage has his home on it.