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RACISM AT FAULT: For endless Blind Boone Home restoration delay, former official says

N-word and other insults allegedly dropped to justify decade-long standstill
 
COLUMBIA, 6/27/12 (Beat Byte) -- "Racism -- blatant racism," a former local government official says, is to blame for a decade-long delay restoring the John William "Blind" Boone Home, a property at 10 N. 4th Street the City of Columbia has owned since November 2000.
 
Other than an exterior paint job completed after this publication and others criticized the project's condition during City Council elections in 2008, the jazz musician's historic residence has sat empty and derelict, a sign outside his home instructing visitors in his own ironic words that "Merit -- not sympathy -- wins."

"It's a disgrace regardless the cause," said one local black leader, who instead blames the delay on a certain powerful private property owner who wants the building gone. "This individual competed with the city to get it from [former owner] Harold Warren. When that didn't happen, he simply decided to stand in the way of ever renovating it. The city will talk about restoring it forever, but it will never happen."
 
Despite dire calls City Hall renovate the Boone home, city officials let its white outside walls badly chip and peel for eight years after purchasing it from Warren for $163,500.
 
The interior remains virtually destroyed to this day, despite reports City Council members allocated some $225,000 to its renovation over six years ago to turn it into a Ragtime museum and black culture center.
 
"I have never been involved in any project during which so many prominent people would be so open about their racial disdain," the former official -- who spoke on condition of anonymity -- told the Heart Beat. "'There's no way we're paying good money to fix up that N's house.' I actually heard that -- more than once."
 
Racially-charged rhetoric wasn't confined to the white community, either. Allegedly because of his ties to white leaders during an intensely segregated period, Blind Boone was reported to have had a controversial history in the black community.
 
"It was very surprising to me that I heard similarly discouraging things about race from prominent black leaders," the official said. "Apparently Blind Boone's history in the black community wasn't without racial controversy, though it was never entirely clear what the controversy involved."
 
The Blind Boone Home is one of two city-owned historic properties that have sat derelict and abandoned for years in the First Ward.
 
The Heibel-March Store, a City of Columbia Notable Historic Property, is tentatively scheduled for demolition in August if no one steps forward to spend their own money renovating it after 15 years of similarly failed attempts. Columbia College reportedly has its own foot on that restoration project, where observers say it will stay until the building is torn down.
 
In contrast, every other city-owned historic property, from the Parks Department to the Municipal Court, has been fully restored using millions of taxpayer dollars.
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