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Posted By: Greg Silker

Date Added:  March 5, 2013 


A year and a half later I was handed a letter as a friend said: “You might be interested in this.”  The letter was from the Historic Preservation Commission stating that the entire fraternity row area was being considered for historic designation.  I thought “They are not going to tear that baby down!”
We pursued the new owners and got first in line to buy.  We had a letter of commitment.
We had the financing.  We were ready to go.  However, we couldn’t get insurance.  No one wanted
to insure a building that had been abandoned now for almost five years.  Without insurance, our financing could not be released.

I went to one bank closing waiting for the miracle fax with our insurance binder.  It didn’t happen. Finally, the seller gave us until one particular Thursday to come up with the money, or they were going to sell the building to someone else.  Wednesday night Barb and I went to the midnight opening of The Two Towers with friends.  Even in real life, it felt like the Orcs were coming over the walls. I had called every person I knew asking if they knew anyone in the insurance business who could help us get coverage.  We were about to lose it again. Thursday evening found me driving to yet another person’s office to go through their contact list looking for an insurance connection.


As I pulled into the parking lot, I got a call from a friend asking me how it was going with the building.   Not good, I lamented and then I walked through all the futile steps we had taken so far.  He listened, then said, “It looks like you’re going to have to close tomorrow.” Thinking he hadn’t understood, I started to repeat all the steps we had taken…we had done everything we could.  He cut me off saying   “It looks like you’re going to have to close tomorrow.  “I’ll wire you the money out of my account.” So we closed the deal with $300, 000 cash from a friend and no insurance.  In the early stages of renovation, the building was almost burned down during the 2003 hockey “riots.”  A group of revelers broke in and were chanting “Torch it!  Torch it!”  The guys from Sigma Nu, the fraternity next door chased them out with baseball bats.



Hundreds of volunteers carried out tons of nonconstruction debris… old mattresses, clothes, garbage.  They tore out old walls and floors upstairs.  We put in all new windows, plumbing, electrical, roof, sprinklers (thanks Olson Fire!)   The bird dung was up to four inches deep in places.  At one point you could see all the way from the library on the first floor to the sky…three stories up.
It was a hair-raising, arduous, joyous process.  Sometimes I’d look at bulging walls we hadn’t opened up yet and feel sick to my stomach.  My kids loved smashing through walls.

More than once I said: “God, if you get us out of this hole (one of our many crises when things looked totally impossible), I’ll believe you can do anything.”  In the end, we could see, that he had indeed opened a door for us…a door that mere circumstances like money and insurance and mobs couldn’t close.  And no one is more amazed by the crazy process than me and Barbara.  I guess God likes creating last minute, “looks like you’re going to lose until the end” stories.



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