By Terry Rogers
Dan Bond says that his love of buildings began when he was 12 and living in his hometown of Marietta, Georgia. His grandfather and several uncles were carpenters and he began working as a carpenter’s assistant at that age as his first job during summer vacations. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in architecture, but also began taking courses in economics at Brown University. He later got his doctorate in planning and economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His career has been mainly in economics and finance and he currently works as a consultant to several organizations, including World Bank, on the financing of large infrastructure projects in Latin America and Africa.
“I first came to Milford as a guest at the Towers Bed and Breakfast,” Dr. Bond said. “After visiting Milford occasionally over the following two years, I purchased the building and Milford became my permanent residence in 1991. I really began to be interested in historic building due to the Towers, which has a wonderful history, and living in the middle of a major historic district with many other interesting structures.”
Dr. Bond’s love of historic building has led him to purchase and restore many older homes throughout Milford. He and his wife, Rhonda, not only own the Towers, but 11 other historic properties in the North Milford Historic District. The couple own the James Hall House, which they use as their residence, on North Street. This home was originally located next to Avenue Church on Northwest Front Street, but was moved to its current location to allow the church to expand. They also own the Sorden-Adkins House, the Marshall House, the Governor Tharp Building and the Yoe-White House. The Marshall House was formerly the Banking House Inn and the Victorian Lady Tea Room while the Governor Tharp Building was the former home of Jewell’s Store. Dr. Bond’s most recent purchase was the Pikus Building, the former Lou’s Bootery location on the corner of North Walnut and Northwest Front Streets which is currently undergoing restoration.
“It takes a considerable time to get everything ready for a project like this,” Dr. Bond said of the Lou’s Bootery location. “The City was quick to give me a permit to demolish the east façade since it presented a public hazard due to cracks in the brick wall. That work was done last fall. Next, it was necessary to get approval from the City for a mixed commercial/residential project in downtown, since this was considered conditional use, have the renovation plans finalized by the architect, Mark Redden of Archology, obtain approval from the State Fire Marshall and the City for the renovation plans, apply for Delaware and Federal historic preservation tax credit approval an arrange financing. All of this is now completed. I expect the reconstruction work will begin before the end of the year, as soon as the contractor, BRS, is available.” Bond said that BRS was working on a major restoration of the Towers and are now working on a partial remodeling of the Marshall House.
All of the buildings Dr. Bond owns have been or are in the process of being restored and put into use. The Towers is operated as a bed and breakfast while the Pikus Building will have two residential apartments and one commercial unit. When it is complete, the Bonds will manage 18 residential apartments and five commercial units. Dr. Bond says that the Marshall House is being renovated for a single-family residence and that they plan to sell it when renovations are complete.
One of the newest projects that Dr. Bond is involved in is a partnership with other local developers, Milford Housing Development Corporation and the City of Milford to develop affordable housing in the 4th Ward.
“We were successful in that effort and obtained a $500,000 grant allocation from DSHA’s Strong Neighborhood Housing Fund,” Dr. Bond said. “We hope to build or renovate ten properties, most of which will be in the block between North Church and West, Northwest Front and Northwest Second Streets. We are in the early planning stage for building a row of townhouses on Northwest Front, across the street from Avenue United Methodist Church. Th townhouses will probably be built in two phases – the first group of perhaps four townhomes are to be on the east half of the property, which is now vacant. The second phase would require the demolition of some of the buildings that currently occupy the west half of the property.”
Dr. Bond said that construction could begin a early as the second half of 2018 and would not involve any mixed-use structures. The townhomes would be sold, not rented. This project is in line with Dr. Bond’s belief that historic buildings, when it is feasible, should be saved and restored.
“I think it is important to save and reuse historic buildings whenever possible,” Dr. Bond said. “Plus, I like the way they were constructed and how they look. I enjoy learning about their history, who lived or worked in them and what role the buildings played in the development of Milford. I have focused on a small area of Milford around where I live, so my wife and I, along with the guests at our B&B, can enjoy being in a nice neighborhood of historic structures.”
Dr. Bond said that the biggest challenge to restoring old buildings is that it is very costly to do a good restoration and that it is difficult to know when the work begins how much the project will finally cost.
“Fortunately, when done properly, some of the expenses can be defrayed by obtaining historic preservation tax credits from both the State of Delaware and the federal government. And as the area that I focus on is in Milford’s Downtown Development District, there is now additional grant support available from the Delaware State Housing Authority. The key benefit is helping to preserve visible signs of the history of an area and, in some cases, to maintain a lovely or unusual structure for everyone to enjoy seeing.”
As far as other historic buildings in Milford, Dr. Bond would like to see the old Carlisle Fire House on Church Street restored and put to use since it is a major historic landmark in Milford. He would also like to see the restoration of the Pratt House at 105 Northwest Front Street and the Anderson House at 107 North Street restored.
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