Historic farmhouse gets new life

Greenfield Council OKs plan for food-service business

Oct. 30, 2012

Greenfield - An 1865 farmhouse that has stood empty for some time will now be preserved and given a new life.

Businessman Craig Mengeling and his wife want to turn part of the farmhouse at 5225 W. Forest Home Ave. into headquarters for their food-service business. They have two uniquely designed concession wagons that sell refreshments at fairs and festivals. Already prepared food would be assembled in the farmhouse kitchen and loaded into the wagons. When not in use, one of the wagons would be stored on the property behind a fence. The other would be at a farm in Franklin.

Activity at the farmhouse also would include a catering office for clients. The Mengelings would live in the home's upper level.

The Greenfield Common Council decided it would go along with the plan if the Plan Commission approves the fence screening for the wagon staying on the property. The commission could consider that as early as Nov. 13.

That screening has been an obstacle as the plan has gone through the city's approval process. In fact, the council turned down Mengeling's first plan that envisioned storing both wagons on the property behind a fence.

But Mengeling's new plan of splitting the wagons up and adding lattice to the top of the existing fence looks workable, said neighbor James Rydlewicz who had expressed concerns about the appearance of the wagons if both were kept on-site.

"I'm confident all will work well," he said. Noting that the property is zoned commercial, he said, "There are worse things they could do including tearing it down."

In fact, owner Lawrence Demotto said razing the building crossed his mind when it didn't sell after about a year on the market.

Casting the only vote against the plan was Alderman Karl Kastner who said the farmhouse has so much character that he was worried that the screening fence would take away from it.

But Mengeling said the couple also is impressed with the historical character of the site and want to protect it.

Alderwoman Linda Lubotsky said it's worth a chance to let the plan go ahead because it would preserve the house.

"It's exquisite," she said.

"Something's better than nothing," Lubotsky said, in light of the owner thinking about demolishing it.

"That would be a great loss to the city," she said.

Earlier objections about the parking arrangements and even whether the parking area around the house has to be paved have been overcome. Mengeling made parking arrangements with the church behind the property and city officials decided that the use Mengeling intends is light enough that paving wouldn't be necessary. The council also decided that the wagons could not serve food on site. The Mengelings had wanted to open them up once in a while if an event is held on the property.

The council didn't act on the part of the Mengelings' plan to turn an outbuilding on the site into a small antique and furniture refurbishing center and sales shop. Nor did it discuss a potential long-range concept the Mengelings have of eventually expanding to the 1800s building next door and turning the 1865 house into a restaurant.

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