City hopeful for restoration of historic Leesburg house ravaged by fire

Repairs may cause landmark to lose spot on historic registry

By Jennifer Ortega - Reporter

LEESBURG, Fla. - There are new concerns about the future of a historic home that was heavily damaged last month by a fire.

Repairs may cause the Leesburg landmark to lose its coveted spot on the historic registry.

"Hopefully the structural engineer will say, 'Yeah, we can rebuild this,'" Skellie Morris said.

Morris said before the city owned the Mote-Morris House, it had been in his family for 70 years.

"My dad was born in that house," Morris said. "We moved back into the house when I was 5. It's just a special place for my family and for the city of Leesburg."

It has been nearly three weeks since a fire gutted the 126-year-old home. Monday night at City Hall, commissioners and the community talked about what to do moving forward -- fix it or tear it down.

"This is one of the most important history structures of our community, and it's worth saving," said John O'Kelley with the Leesburg Historic Preservation Board.

City officials said the building was insured for $725,000, but a structural engineer who inspected the house estimates a repair could cost $1 million to $2 million. It's a cost the city would have to revisit if the insurance doesn't cover it. But even a demolition isn't off the table.

"I don't think we can rule anything out yet, so we'll go from there," City Manager Al Miner said. "Today it looks very positive that we're going to be able to do a rebuild."

"I feel like it's worth to doing whatever it takes to restore it as long as it's not absolutely unreasonable," O'Kelley said.

Preservation is another concern. City officials said rebuilding the home may cause it to lose its spot on the state historic registry.

It could be a couple more weeks before anything is decided.

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