"Nightmare on Elm Street" House Threatened

Potsdam
The Dewey House in Potsdam, N.Y., was owned by fraternities from 1956 until 2007.

Credit: Save Nightmare on Elm St. House

UPDATE: The Dewey House was demolished in November 2010.

Built in 1895 by local businessman F. L. Dewey, the three-story house Queen Anne Victorian once boasted pocket doors, stained-glass windows, and onion turrets. It became a fraternity house in 1956, and, predictably, its deterioration began.

In 1968, three Theta Chi brothers and their Clarkson University humanities professor, Wes Craven, conceptualized a short horror film set in 18 Elm Street. Craven wrote a screenplay that became the basis for the 1984 movie. When production began, however, the director chose to shoot in California and not inside the house that inspired the film.

By 2006, the house was in such disrepair that Potsdam's code-enforcement department cited the owner, another fraternity. "They were either unwilling or unable to do the repairs necessary, so they just abandoned it," says Marie Regan, town supervisor. Two years later, brothers Kip and Kevin Blanchard, bought the house and stripped out its windows, doors, copper pipes, and other architectural elements, according to Regan. "The building is now a shell," she says. "It really is not in good shape."

Potsdam bought the house from the Blanchards earlier this year as a possible site for new town offices. Regan hopes to move out of the existing 115-year-old town hall, which is under restoration, and move to new offices on the site of 18 Elm Street, but no plans have been finalized.

This month, a contractor is assessing the toxic materials in the house. That report, Regan says, "will determine how or when or if it will be demolished."

So far, more than 7,000 people have joined a Facebook group, "Save the Nightmare on Elm St. House," and 812 people have signed a petition urging Potsdam to restore the structure. Local resident Ryan Meashaw, who wrote the petition about a month ago, believes that a historic preservation society incorporated locally could save 18 Elm Street.

Village Historian Mimi Van Deusen, director of the Potsdam Public Museum, agrees, and is in the process of forming just such a nonprofit society. "We want to get everything done right and not hurry into it," Van Deusen says.

"We'd like to save the house, however it comes about," Meashaw says. "I'm perfectly fine with a [new] town hall, as long as it's in a restored, 1890 Queen Anne building … not some ugly box of a building." At a town board meeting last Tuesday, Meashaw and four other people spoke in favor of preserving the Dewey House. He hopes to raise about $60,000 to buy it from the village.

His efforts notwithstanding, town officials suggest that 18 Elm Street will in all likelihood be razed. "[Meashaw's group] would be better served to raise that money and save two or three buildings that could be saved," Town Supervisor Regan says.

The Dewey House isn't the first—or last—fraternity-owned house threatened in Potsdam, home to Clarkson University. "We have a lot of historic houses that unfortunately been turned into student housing," Meashaw says."There are lots of houses that the [future] preservation society could potentially save in the future."

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.

Subscribe to the Today's News RSS feed

Comments

Submitted by Eugene24 at: November 18, 2010
I think it should be saved because it looks so nice and it could have so much room for offices. If it does have tie to that movie, Then it should be up for a show for that movie.

Submitted by MissMeggie2804 at: November 17, 2010
But it is finalized! There tearing it down this week! I just saw it on the local news...so sad...so sad....where will Freddy go now? hopefully not to my house :*) (thats a crying smiley face trying to laugh)

Submitted by Joe James at: August 3, 2010
You can say what you will but under the "stewardship" of these fraternities this lovely old home is now an unlivable shell lumber. Thanks for taking such "great care of that house". But please, don't buy any homes in my neighborhood. We prefer to INCREASE our home values.

Submitted by Joe James at: August 3, 2010
Dude get REAL!!! Fraternities are well-known for drinking, carousing, playing and in other words not being real responsible. I have never known a frat house that EVER had a reputation for being responsible, so to suggest that a frat house might might not be very responsible in caring for what is an old historic home is NOT "filtering [the article] with assumptions". IT'S REALITY!!! You need get with the program. We have the VERY same issue with frat houses who abuse big old lovely homes in my neck of the woods! Same issue - different frat house!

Submitted by Michael at: July 30, 2010
While the story has interest I must say how disappointed I was that it was filtered with assumptions and stereotypes about how fraternities may provide for their homes. My fraternity at Kansas State University actually restored a beautiful Tudor style home and each year spent additional weeks stripping paint from woodword, adding traditional flower beds, and maintaining a wonderful environment.

Submitted by Little Dan at: July 25, 2010
"and predictably it's deterioration began"... I'm sad to see that in the article. Theta Chi took great care of that house as do many other Potsdam fraternities that take great pride in maintaining these historic mansions. Go take a look at omicron pi omicron on 14 Leroy street sometime.

Submitted by Brian at: July 24, 2010
Must have been an amazing house at one time.

Submitted by TaxiManSteve at: July 23, 2010
Why not be imaginative and... get this... put the town offices in the Dewey House?... A win-win situation that saves resources and preserves the city's history.