CLEVELAND (AP) - Preservationists want to spare a 150-year-old vacant red-brick house that stands in the way of an expanding hospital because it may have been a safe house for fleeing slaves.
University Hospitals of Cleveland, which owns the Justus L. Cozad House, has sought city permission for several years to raze or move it.
City Councilman Kevin Conwell wants to bring together representatives from the hospital and the Cleveland Restoration Society to find a solution.
The house, built in 1853, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 because it was believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The designation does not provide protection if an owner wants to tear down a building, said Kathleen Crowther, executive director of the restoration society.
Cleveland cited the house this year for not meeting housing codes. Crowther fears there will be no choice but to raze the house if deterioration continues.
"It's demolition by neglect," she said. "We're going to stick up for this building."
Conwell said he wants proof of the house's history. If the house was part of the Underground Railroad, he said he would favor moving it to allow the hospital to expand.
University Hospitals spokeswoman Eileen Korey said the hospital is interested in discussing the issue.
The hospital "wants to be sensitive to the needs of the community and realistic to the economic issues involved with the property," she said.