The head of the Cresson Area Historical Society is throwing a monkey wrench into plans to raze a 14-room Queen Anne house that neighbors believe is a safety hazard.

From behind bars, society President Charles Miller has told Cresson Township Solicitor Gerald Neugebauer that Braemar is worth saving. The once-majestic Braemar – now owned by the society – is said to have been the summer home of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.

“The individual is apparently reluctant to do anything against the property,” Neugebauer said of his recent conversation with Miller. “I was trying to get permission and there was total reluctance.”

Braemar has been vacant since the late 1980s.

It has had little maintenance and now is about to fall in, neighbors of the 1229 Third St. property said as they pressed Cresson Township officials for demolition.

“It’s going to go down one of these days,” said Louise Frederick, who lives next door.

Miller, well known in the Cresson area, was convicted this year of child molestation and is serving a five-year prison sentence.

What is – or isn’t – done with the home is a decision for the owner, which is the historical society and, in essence, Miller.

“The (historical society) corporation has legal title to that real estate. Technically, it’s private property,” Neugebauer said.

“Now, I don’t think anybody knows of anyone in the authority except that one person who is incarcerated.”

Braemar was built in 1882 as one of 12 buildings leased by Cresson Springs Co., near the 1,000-room Mountain House hotel, a property of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Claims differ as to whether it was owned for a few years by Carnegie, but there is no argument its principal owner was Benjamin Jones, founder of Jones and Laughlin Steel Co.

The house was purchased by the local historical society in 1990 and a $30,000 government-funded study to revamp it was conducted. But the $2 million restoration money could not be found.

Neugebauer urged residents to locate old minutes of the historical society and attempt to learn if any current or former members are around.

One member who has stepped forward agrees with Miller.

Etta Albright of Powell Avenue, Cresson, a member of the society during its early years, said Monday that demolishing what is a direct link to the area’s rich history is unacceptable.

“To me, it would be a grave mistake to let that go,” she said.

Albright has spoken to a Miller family member who said, “Charlie is not ready to give it up.”

Albright said she sympathizes with the people who live near the old house, but wants an expert to look at the structure to determine its condition before action is taken.

“I would support it (demolition) if somebody said that it is a threat and it cannot be repaired,” she said.

The township could take legal action against property owners in violation of its nuisance ordinance, tear the property down and put a lien on the land to recoup costs.

But the demolition would be costly and it is questionable if the township would ever get its money back, officials said.

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