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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette The John D. Haynes House, 3901 N. Washington Road, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The owner, Richard Herber, has tried repeatedly to have its historic designation lifted to “cast a wider net” for potential buyers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 11:52 am

Wright house owner files suit

Rebecca S. Green | The Journal Gazette

Richard Herber owns a historic home, Fort Wayne’s only house designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

And for months, he has battled the Fort Wayne City Council and the Fort Wayne Historic Preservation Commission to get the Usonian-style house’s designation as a Local Historic District removed.

Last week, he took the matter to federal court, filing a lawsuit, without the benefit of an attorney, against both the council and the commission. He is asking a federal judge to remove the restriction, grant him fees and costs, and award him damages he says he’s suffered because of the house’s historic status.

Built in 1951 at 3901 N. Washington Road, the 1,411-square-foot house is known as the John and Dorothy Haynes House. Herber has owned it since 2004. 

Herber’s been at loggerheads with both the council and the commission to remove the designation that he says makes the house harder to sell and more expensive to maintain. In spite of denials, he has repeatedly petitioned the commission throughout the year.

The city council voted to uphold the commission’s April denial, but has yet to take action on the most recent denial in July.

In his lawsuit, Herber claims he is "a qualified individual with a disability," and says he submitted the petition to make "immediate disability related modifications."

He accuses both the commission and the City Council of denying him reasonable accommodations, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, according to court documents.

Along with his lawsuit, Herber asked the judge to appoint an attorney to represent him. He said he has tried to find a civil rights lawyer in the area, but none are willing to take his case. With a low income, Herber said he spends most of his time receiving treatment for his disabilities at Lutheran Hospital, according to court documents.

According to court documents, the house was just pulled out of foreclosure by the federal Home Affordable Modification Program.

In his first petition to the commission in February, Herber claimed he had become disabled, could not afford repairs and said he might need to make external modifications to the house.