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story.lead_photo.caption The Blake House at 301 NE Blake St. collapsed last week as it was being moved to construct a new foundation. The house was going to be part of a social and wellness club by a company supported by the Walton family. - Photo by David Gottschalk

A Victorian-style house in downtown Bentonville that was being preserved and incorporated into a social and wellness club collapsed last weekend and will have to be razed.

The house, built in the late 1880s by Thomas Taylor Blake, was at 301 NE Blake St. It was irreparably damaged while it was being moved for construction of a new foundation.

The 5,000-square-foot house was part of a project by Bentonville-based Ropeswing Hospitality Group, a dining and entertainment development company supported by the Walton family. Tom Walton, grandson of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton, is Ropeswing's managing principal. Ropeswing was preserving the structure to include it as part of an 18,400-square-foot development project called The Blake Street House.

Rob Apple, managing director for Ropeswing, revealed the damage in a social media post Monday.

"The structure collapsed as it was being moved," Apple wrote. "It doesn't appear that we will be able to salvage the structure. We are obviously very disappointed. We made significant investments in time and expense to save the structure and incorporate it into the new project."

Apple, who was not available for further comment Wednesday, also said on social media that no one was injured when the structure collapsed.

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Blake was a sheriff, had a lumber business and operated the Blake Hotel for 35 years, according to historians. A Strata Architecture report on the history of the house said Blake built the house for $2,000 around 1887. It has undergone several alterations since.

The house was built on Lot 7, which was one of the 166 original Bentonville town lots in 1836-37, according to Monte Harris of the Rogers Historical Museum. Harris said Blake Street is named after Blake and his wife, Bertha Curtis, the first residents of the house.

"Historic structures are irreplaceable reminders of our community memory," Harris said in an email. "A little of our collective 'sense of place' fades away every time we lose a historic building. Historic sites help tell the story of who we are as a community. If we, as a town, don't know how we got to where we are today, it can become more difficult to know if we are making good decisions for our future."

Mark Christ, community outreach director for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, said the structure wasn't listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the organization hadn't done a formal assessment of its eligibility to be listed. Like Harris, Christ said historic buildings like the Blake house are important to communities.

"They reflect a period of time or the people who lived there and their influence," Christ said. "They're all part of the tapestry that makes up the story of a local community."

The house and property at 301 NE Blake St. was acquired by Casa de Hormigas LLC in January 2010 for $290,000, according to property records. The property is now valued at about $1 million.

When the latest project was announced in March, officials said the Blake house would be returned to its original two-story, four-bedroom footprint. Ropeswing's plan for the social club includes a clubhouse, pool, locker rooms, fitness studios, and food and beverage areas focused on healthy living. There also will be gathering spaces like dining rooms and lounges where members can visit and connect.

Ropeswing's development projects focus on turning historical landscapes in Northwest Arkansas into modern culinary and entertainment options, according to its website. Previous projects include restaurants (The Preacher's Son and Pressroom), a lounge (Undercroft) and event space (Record).

Aaron Sadler, media relations specialist for Ghidotti Communications in Little Rock, said Ropeswing remains committed to the Blake Street House project and is evaluating its next steps. Sadler said Ropeswing does not anticipate any significant changes to the timeline for construction, which was originally scheduled to be completed by next fall.

"While this is a challenging setback, we are eager to find a solution that meets our expectations from a design perspective while maintaining the integrity of the neighborhood," Ropeswing's Apple wrote.

Business on 10/05/2017

Print Headline: Plans for 1880s house turn to dust; Bentonville home at hub of project collapses during move

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