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Owner plans open house for historic home in Rock Hill threatened with demolition

aburriss@heraldonline.com

The man trying to save the 105-year-old historic William Wallace Fennell House on Confederate Avenue will host an open house on Sunday, hoping to drum up support.

The two-story home, located near Confederate Park in Rock Hill, is threatened by demolition. Russ Frase has owned the house since 1997 and has made some repairs and began renovations.

But, city officials have warned that because the structure does not meet building and safety codes, the house could be considered blight and may be condemned. Frase says he’s been given until March to complete improvements to the exterior of the house or he’ll face fines from the city and possibly be given a demolition order. In the past, the city has granted several other extensions for renovation to take place.

Earlier this year, city officials told The Herald they aren’t aiming to make Frase tear down the old house but too much time has lapsed with the house sitting empty, and intermittent repairs have been made. Under city rules, Rock Hill can condemn properties and schedule them for demolition if homeowners allow the structure to deteriorate and become unsafe.

The William Wallace Fennell House was saved from demolition before in 1997 when Frase bought the home with plans for a total renovation. He estimates he’s spent nearly $200,000 on the house and renovations so far.

Frase says he hopes the upcoming open house will raise awareness about historic preservation and potentially help him find a financial partner to make needed repairs to save the home.

For more on the home’s history, read previous coverage.

The historic home is the largest house in the Confederate Park neighborhood, located in the downtown Rock Hill area.

The house has a storied past and is named for the man who built it in 1910. William Wallace Fennell also built and supervised the city’s first hospital, which stood next door to the residence on Confederate Avenue until it was torn down. Fennell died in 1926.

The Sisters of Saint Francis once ran Fennell’s hospital. The nuns who worked as nurses lived in the Fennell residence from the early 1940s to 1958. After the nuns left, the Fennell home was sold and later used as a boarding house and was known locally as “Confederate Hall” – home to nearly 25 college-aged residents at one time.

The open house is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at 334 N. Confederate Ave. The site is considered an active construction site. Visitors wanting to go inside the home on Sunday will be required to sign a liability release form.

To raise money for repairs, Frase will be selling “Save the Fennell House” t-shirts for $20. Canned goods and monetary donations will also be collected to benefit families in Rock Hill, Frase said.

Food donations will be given to the Hope House in Rock Hill. Donated money will be distributed to families in need through the Confederate Park Neighborhood Association.

For more information, visit the William Wallace Fennell House profile on Facebook.

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