By Jacqueline Miles
For Lloyd and Robin Reshard, the D’Alemberte House is a rare and unique find. “We were actually introduced to this find by a friend of ours, Christian Wagley, who’s a community and environmental activist. He wanted to see more of Pensacola preserved,” stated Robin Reshard. “So when he heard about the possibility of the house being demolished, he called me and asked if I knew anything about it.” Robin is the first to admit that she knew little about preserving a house. “I love history but preserving a house was a new adventure. So I went down and talked to the owners and they said that they were willing to donate the house if we were going to preserve it and providing we pay for the moving of the house.” The previous owner, Neil Richards and the new A Door Properties were developing a new development at the west juncture. The house was sitting on a site for the holding pond.”
In August, the process began to make it happen. “We gave a commitment and in September we gave our letter of Intent. From there, it was about finding the dollars to get the house moved,” she said. The cost to move the house from Gregory Street to Coyle Street was $50,000. That included the move and putting the foundation in place here. But that cost was way less than the intrinsic value of the house, the historic value, the value to preservation, the value of the community not to mention the value of good will from the developers. The community also wanted to see this happen because they did not want to see another house (historical) torn down.”
Robin was quick to point out that she has good friends. “Whether it was someone who said ‘I can give you a dollar or if I can’t give you a dollar, I can give you some advice. If I can’t give you advice, I can tell you where to go or I can come and lend a hand or I can volunteer. Teamwork made the difference.”
“Lloyd and I have no experience in moving a house. We knew we wanted to preserve the old parts of it. We have this incredible wood and parts that have held this house for 130 People like Anita Welcome and JR, Dell Sherman, George King, they just came and started pitching in to help. Raymond Reese, who brought his guy to spray the house for bugs before moving. They helped us remove the mantle, the windows and doors. It was truly a community effort,” said Robin.
The home was built between 1880 and 1885 by Arthur and Carrie Hancock D’Alemberte. Arthur was a city and county tax collector who also bought and sold real estate and insurance. They lived in the house until 1895, then moved to East Hill. They sold the property in 1905. Advertising and city directories show that the home was used as a primary residence and boarding house from 1895 to the 1960s. In the 1960s, Eugene and Ruth Bell established Bell’s Boarding House and remained through the 1970s. For the remaining years and through 2016, it was used as a boarding home.
When asked if they were going to move into the house she replied, “No. We are going to make this a community house. I’m waiting for the house to speak to me as to what we really are going to do with it. I do know it will not be an event center. We want to keep it in the realm of history; allowing people to come and relax and enjoy the history of the house and be able to reach out to the community.”
Robin wants to have the house completed by February 2018. “February holds a lot of memories of people that have gone on from this plain and they are saying ‘remember me.’ So, we are shooting for that time.”
Regardless of when the house is completed, there are a lot of volunteers waiting to help make this historical house a beautiful home. Now that’s a community in unity.