Ledger Inquirer

Anyone know anything about the owners of this house?

A large tree has fallen and partially collapsed the front porch of this house near Weracoba Park.
A large tree has fallen and partially collapsed the front porch of this house near Weracoba Park. mowen@ledger-enquirer.com

There’s a mysterious house in the Lakebottom area that hasn’t been occupied in who-knows-how-long, whose owner is deceased, and with a large tree resting on its partially collapsed front porch. And someone, we know not whom, is paying taxes on the place.

A Concerned Yet Anonymous Reader called me about the place and asked if I could look into it. I said no, I can’t look into it because that would be trespassing, but I’d see what I could find out.

Here’s what I found out about the house at 1502 Virginia Street.

Someone reported the house to the city’s Inspections and Code Department back in July and they initially condemned the place for ultimate demolition, Inspections and Code Director John Hudgison told me. But upon further inspection, they determined that the two-story brick duplex wasn’t in as bad a condition as first thought.

So it’s listed under “property maintenance” instead of demolition. That means the city will try to get hold of whoever owns the house and tell them it has to either be repaired and brought up to code or demolished.

Another reason not to rush into demolition is the cost. Some houses are relatively inexpensive to demolish. Others aren’t. On the city’s current list of demolitions, contractor prices range from $3,000 to $17,000, Hudgison said.

“The Virginia Street property is two stories in the back and is a full brick structure,” Hudgison said. “The city could tear down quite a few of those $3,000 shotgun houses for what it might cost to tear this one down.”

After some investigation, the city determined the owner, Ed Wohlwender, passed away in 1999, and then his wife died in 2006. Now the city is having trouble locating the next of kin, Hudgison said.

This property is listed with a fair market value of $101,700. As it is, there’s no way anyone could get six figures for this place, even with the free firewood thrown in. But somebody is interested enough in it to have been paying $1,677 a year in taxes for the last 10 years, Hudgison said. But he just doesn’t know whom.

Couldn’t you just ask the tax office who is paying the taxes?

“I called over there and asked, and they said they don’t keep records of who pays the taxes,” Hudgison said. “As long as they are paid, that’s good enough for them.”

So there it sits, taxes paid, but awaiting repair.

But it can’t just sit there forever, Hudgison said. It’s been on the city’s radar for about six months now, and if no one does anything in another six months, then it could become a candidate for demolition.

“Maybe when you put it in the paper, someone will see it and come forward,” Hudgison said.

Who knows? Stranger things have happened. Anybody out there know anything about the Wohlwenders? If so …

Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquirer.com.

Related stories from Columbus Ledger-Enquirer