Historic Craigie House owner: Ice ‘pushed the roof straight down’

After historic Craigie House collapse, restaurateur thankful for ‘little voice’ - Video by John Spink / AJC

A historic Midtown building under renovation collapsed Wednesday night after a day of significant ice accumulation.

The Craigie House at 1204 Piedmont Ave. was vacant and no one was injured in the collapse, said Janet Ward, spokeswoman for the Atlanta Fire Department. But investigators have not determined if the collapse was related to the icy conditions.

“People are suggesting it could be weather-related, but I cannot say that definitely,” Ward said.

Located across from Piedmont Park and close to 14th Street, the building dated back to 1911 and served as headquarters for Georgia’s first chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), according to the chapter’s website.

A tree fell on the home in the mid-1980s, damaging it and rendering it unusable. Repairs were made over the years, but the building was again damaged by Hurricane Opal in 1995. In 2001, the property was sold but ended up in foreclosure.

The building was purchased last March for $350,000, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Remarkably, new owner Bert Sanders doesn’t have buyer’s remorse.

He and his wife, Laura Koch, were at their West Midtown home around 9 p.m. Wednesday when the news came in: The somewhat rundown, 103-year residence they’d recently purchased and begun lovingly restoring had partially collapsed in the ongoing storm.

“The structural engineers say it was from the amount of pounds per square inch of ice,” Sanders said Thursday morning, standing on the front lawn of the house now encircled by yellow crime scene tape. Motioning towards the knot of workers surveying the damage, he added, “It pushed the roof straight down.”

Built not long after the Cotton States Exhibition that took place directly across the street in Piedmont Park and essentially put Atlanta on the map, the house was orginally the headquarters for the first Georgia chapter of the DAR. The storm took out most of the back and affected one side of the house — residents of a smaller multi-dwelling house next door had to evacuate Wednesday night, Sanders said, but they should be able to return today when the braced-up side is deemed safe.

Luckily, the original brick and white-columned front remained standing and should be salvageable, said Sanders, who plans to live in the house with his wife when it’s restored.

“It’s such a cool place,” said Sanders, who joked that if you just look at the front of the house, it looks fine. “We’ll bring the cool factor back.”

Atlanta restaurateur Ace Amerson said Thursday that he is thanking a “little voice” for keeping him from being inside the house when it collapsed.

Amerson told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that he had signed an agreement to buy the house three years ago, but backed out of the deal.

“The owner was a good buddy, and I was looking for a house to buy and he thought this would be the coolest bachelor pad of all time,” Amerson said. “It just needed so much work, but I fell in love with the house.”

Amerson agreed to buy the house, and “worked on it so hard, every single day,” he said. “Lead paint, asbestos — this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever worked on.”

But after three months, “I had this nightmare one night about the house,” Amerson said. “I couldn’t shake the dream, and the next day, this little voice was saying this wasn’t the right deal for me to buy.”

Amerson said his friend let him out of the buyer’s agreement.

“If I had bought the house, I would have been in it when it collapsed,” he said.

— Staff writers Michelle E. Shaw, Alexis Stevens and Mike Morris and photographer John Spink contributed to this article.