Wombwell House again slated for demolition

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The historic Wombwell House is once again slated for demolition.

Smithfield’s Town Council, on Sept. 7, voted unanimously to accept a bid of $14,100 from Smithfield Services to raze the circa-1840s cottage named for its builder, Dr. Jordan Wombwell. The home is located on a town-owned parcel adjacent to Smithfield’s Luter Sports Complex on West Main Street.

The home’s fate has been a point of controversy for several years. In 2016, the town had put the house on the market for $1 to anyone willing to relocate it at his or her own expense. When that failed to attract a buyer, the town offered to let Smithfield’s Volunteer Fire Department burn it down as a training exercise.

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That prompted an outcry by members of the Isle of Wight County Historical Society, which, in 2019, approached the town about leasing the property to use as its headquarters. But those negotiations fell through in April this year.

According to Smithfield Town Manager Michael Stallings, the VFD has once again expressed an interest in burning the Wombwell house as a training exercise. He’s recommending the department be given to the end of October to conduct its training, with Smithfield Services demolishing anything that remains shortly after.

According to the Town Council’s Aug. 23 committee report, Smithfield had initially solicited demolition bids with a focus on salvaging architectural materials from within the house, but no bids were received. The town then solicited bids for demolition without salvage, and received bids from two contractors, of which Smithfield Services was the lower bidder.

Carolyn Keen, president of the Isle of Wight County Historical Society, declined to comment on the pending demolition.