Jesse Lee Home

The dilapidated Jesse Lee home as seen in this 2018 photo is set to be demolished by the City of Seward.

The temporary restraining order against the City of Seward’s demolition efforts at the historic Jesse Lee Home expired at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 30 after the preservation non-profit Friends of Jesse Lee Home (FLJH) failed to post the $536,720.73 bond required to convert the restraining order to an injunction. The FJLH had filed the injunction along with a suit against the City over ownership of the historic property just as demolition efforts had begun.

Superior Court Judge Lance Joanis granted the injunction on the condition that the FLJH post the bond to cover the City’s mounting costs in idle crews and equipment rental. The bond was set at half the amount of the state grant awarded to the City for demolition. The inability of the FJLH to post the bond by their one-week deadline allowed the City to resume demolition, and no further court action will be pursued at this time.

FJLH President Dorene Lorenz lamented the loss of the remaining structures at the site of the birthplace of Alaska’s state flag.

“The unfortunate fact that the City of Seward elected to demolish the Jesse Lee Home’s first growth timber, wood flooring, divided light windows, and historic fixtures instead of allowing local artisans and craftsman the opportunity to salvage these high quality construction materials for reuse and repurposing is the exclamation point at the end of their value proposition,” she said.

Lorenz added that the FJLH might have raised the bond given more time.

“There is such strong support for the Jesse Lee, if we had a month we are confident we could have obtained that goal,” she said. “Over half-a-million in a week was just too tight a turnaround for most of our potential funders.”

The City’s $1.3 million state grant was originally awarded to the FJLH for the site’s preservation, but the funds were reallocated to the City for demolition when the City assumed ownership of the property in August of 2019. Under the terms of the grant, the City must complete demolition and abatement and erect a monument using materials salvaged from the original structures by June 30, 2021.