Attorney Says Gavis House Agreement Leans Toward Preservation

Posted: September 12, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — A deal has been negotiated that could result in the restoration of a historic but deteriorating city home instead of its demolition.

Motions hearings in the city’s case against homeowner Martin Gavis were postponed Thursday morning when Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. was told that a potential agreement has been reached.

Gavis has signed the document, his attorney Phillip S. Griffin II told Wetsel in Winchester Circuit Court. City Attorney Tony Williams said City Council must vote to accept its terms before the deal can be finalized.

“We feel pretty confident that this addresses all the issues,” Williams told Wetsel.

For years, city officials have tried various methods to get Gavis to make repairs to his home at 414 S. Braddock St. It was built in 1881 by the Aulick family and is the only original, intact example of Second Empire architecture in Winchester.

The house, however, was badly damaged by a fire started by an arsonist in 1984. Gavis has not repaired some of that damage in the 29 years since the blaze, and signs indicate that the wing of the home that’s been declared unsafe for human habitation is starting to fail.

Gavis and his wife, Claudette, still live in another section of the home.

At Williams’ request, Wetsel declared the potential agreement sealed at least until it has been presented to City Council. The panel meets Tuesday night for a work session.

Williams declined to comment following the brief hearing.

Griffin said he could not comment on specifics about the agreement but indicated that it works toward preservation.

“We’re still trying to keep this matter out of litigation,” he said, “and come up with a detailed plan to try to preserve the historic house.”

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at