WATERTOWN — Already standing before the surrounding cottages were built in 1929, the more than century-old Dunlap Building, the original farmhouse on the property of the Children’s Home of Jefferson County, is being demolished due to a state of disrepair determined to be too costly to fix.
Following inspections from local architects, the Children’s Home Board of Directors determined the building, 1704 State St., was beyond repair and should be taken down. Its removal is expected to improve the flow of campus programming and operations, as well as lend to a more pleasing aesthetic.
According to Matthew J. Richmond, who’s in charge of public relations for the Children’s Home, the Dunlap Building was probably built in the 1860s or 1870s. When the Children’s Home acquired it, they also acquired the 13 acres of land that came with it.
“I don’t know exactly when the determination was made, but I know that we went back and forth trying to preserve it as best we could,” Mr. Richmond said. “But in rough estimates it’s costing us about $30,000 to have it demolished. It would cost us $1.5 million to just get it to code prior to anything else being done on the inside of it.”
The Dunlap Building’s demolition is part of the agency’s ongoing progression to providing sites better equipped to handle the myriad needs of its current clients, and providing them with more therapeutic environments. In July, the agency relocated its mental and behavioral health outpatient clinic, the Community Clinic of Jefferson County, to the recently restored Empsall Building in downtown.
Over the years, the Dunlap Building has served many diverse purposes including an infirmary, a residence for former executive directors during the agency’s orphanage days and most recently as its Non-Secure Detention Program site from 1999 up until about a year ago.
“It is pretty deplorable inside, unfortunately, kind of falling apart,” Mr. Richmond said. “We would have loved to have kept it, but it just doesn’t make sense after the dollar signs came out there.”
The Children’s Home of Jefferson County is the oldest continuously operating not-for-profit in Jefferson County. In place of the Dunlap Building, the space will be fenced-in green space and trees planted in the area. According to Mr. Richmond, the location is right near the campus dining hall.
“Hopefully, our chef can come out there and host picnics and other events during the summer and other months when it’s warm enough to do that,” he said. “We hope it just opens up the aesthetics of the campus and just gives it more of a warm feel.”
The Dunlap Building was part of a large farm acquired by Harlan Page Dunlap and Mary C. Dutton Dunlap in 1883. In 1900, Mr. Dunlap, who in addition to developing the farm worked as an assessor for Watertown Savings Bank and a federal weather observer, sold a portion of his property to the developers of Thompson Park and in 1906 the family moved to Winthrop Street. Mr. Dunlap died in 1920 and the remainder of the farm was acquired by the Children’s Home, which began construction on its cottages in 1927.