Condemned: A look at Marietta’s top priority blighted properties

Photo courtesy of Hidden Marietta The Dr. Seth Hart house and office formerly occupying 115 and 117 Gilman Ave. received historic recognition in the 1980s for both the doctor and for the early Federal style architecture of the home before it fell into decay.

When one lives next to a condemned property, or between two, the fear of fire, collapse and drug activity are more than just conceptual blight.

“We wake up in the middle of the night to bright lights shining out of the windows at 2 a.m., and that house is supposed to be condemned, there’s supposed to be no one in there, but with all of the drug issues in this area we’ve called the police on multiple occasions,” said Shane Colvin, who lives across the street from Marietta’s top identified nuisance–708 Eighth St.

For the Colvins, the topic of blight is an everpresent danger for them and the neighborhood children ranging in age from preschool to fourth grade who walk past the property on the way to and headed home from Washington Elementary each day.

Families in the lower west side trailer park where Gilman Avenue turns into Virginia Street face similar fears as they watch continued trespass at Lot 2.

“Following repeated reports from neighborhood liaisons I executed a knock and talk at that trailer on July 18,” explained Det. Tyson Estes, of the Marietta Police Department. “That contact then allowed a search of the property, and we found items indicative of drug use.”

Photo by Janelle Patterson Lights are on every night according to neighbors of the city's top-identified blighted property at 708 Eighth St. though the property is condemned and facing legal action in Washington County Common Pleas Court.

While the opioids and methamphetamine found in the trailer did not result in immediate arrests of the eight adults frequenting and/or living in the trailer, Estes said identifying the living conditions of the trailer allowed him to involve the city health department and code enforcement office.

“We found a drug kit with spoons, needles and 7.79 grams of heroin in the living room, and found methamphetamine and paraphernalia in one of the bedrooms but it was the dog (feces) all over the floor that allowed us to call in Wayne Rhinehart at the code enforcement office to declare the property uninhabitable,” said Estes. “But the owner of the trailer park is our own law director (Paul Bertram.)”

Families in the trailer park, when talked with in recent weeks by The Marietta Times, said they are scared to be identified for fear of retaliation.

But they also cited the city’s second priority blighted property as a cause for fear and a refuge for crime.

Neighbors said they are tired of picking up clothing from unidentified homeless people living in the abandoned home immediately to the right of 115 at 117 Gilman Ave., The property, while locked by city crews, had the door kicked in and had fresh liquor bottles, clothing and trash strewn about the inside when neighborhood organizers recently visited the property.

Photo by Janelle Patterson Fresh evidence of squatting continues after efforts by the city to secure 117 Gilman Ave. have been kicked in.

The home is reportedly of historic value, according to Jann Adams of the Washington County Historical Society, due to an early doctor who settled in Harmar.

“It’s one of the finest examples of early Federal Style houses in our area, and it’s such a shame to see now,” said Adams. “The date of that house being built was around 1810, and it was built by Dr. Seth Hart, who was well known in this area in the mid-1800s. His house was at 115, and his office was right next door where he made his own medicines (at 117).”

The property has vines and tall weeds overgrown and has collapsed interiors after years of decay. According to recent reports from Rhinehart to city council, the title search is still being conducted by the law director’s office with an estimate for the demolition of the historic property currently estimated at $24,000.

Estes asked that neighbors continue to call the Marietta Police Department at 740-376-2007 each time entry into the condemned properties is witnessed.

“Any entry without our authorization is trespassing and a crime,” said Estes. “We know that there are still people squatting (at Lot 2, 115 Gilman Ave. and 117 Gilman Ave.), but we need you to call when you see it so we can arrest them.”

Photo by Janelle Patterson Fourth Ward Councilman Geoff Schenkel, left, and Main Street West co-chair Jackson Patterson, right, assess continued concerns at 115 and 117 Gilman Avenue this month before talking with neighbors about squatters breaking into the condemned structures.

Bertram did not return a call for comment on Thursday.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

At a glance:

• Legal action against 708 Eighth St. is currently before Judge Randall Burnworth in Washington County Common Pleas Court with the next hearing on the property scheduled for Sept. 4.

• 708 Eighth St. is the city’s top priority for blight.

• Lot 2 in the Bertram-owned trailer park at the corner of Gilman Avenue and Virginia Street was condemned for health and safety on July 18.

• Now all entry into the trailer home is legally considered trespassing unless pre-authorized by city police before each occurrence to fix structural issues.

• Any activity may be anonymously reported to the Marietta Police Department at 740-376-2007.

• 115-117 Gilman Ave. still has evidence of squatters using the historic and condemned property.

• The two structures are the second priority for city blight work.

Source: Marietta City Council, Code Enforcement Office and Police Department.