CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Darlene Pride can't believe her Cleveland Heights family home of more than 50-years has been reduced to a pile of rubble.
The large Lee Road home was taken down by city backhoes on June 14, after the house was victimized by a second-floor fire in September 2020.
Pride, who is a Lieutenant Colonel with Army Nurse Corps, said she made it clear to the city that she had the resources and plans to save the family home but said the city wouldn't give her the time or opportunity to get her repair effort started.
Pride said the city delayed the demolition once, but said a demolition date was moved up without her being notified, not allowing her to remove some final family heirlooms.
“When I got over here the house was flat and they had no demolition papers, they came later,” Pride said. "So I was really shocked.”
“The city said 'Ms. Pride get an engineer, an attorney and a contractor,' and I did, and they agreed to let me fix the house. Three days later they said they changed their mind. They said I had to update the code for the electrical and the plumbing and I said I would do it," Pride said. "I had gold china, I had all of my family pictures and portraits, I had an old Victrola antique, antique pictures on the wall. My military equipment was on the third floor that I brought back from Iraq, I got nothing."
Pride expressed her sincere thanks and appreciation to the Cleveland Heights police and fire fighters who helped get her out of the burning home, but said her house was not nearly as lucky.
Black on Black Crime Inc. held a small rally in front of the now demolished house demanding the City of Cleveland Heights provide some restitution to the Army veteran.
City Manager Susanna Niermann O'Neil quickly responded to our story and issued the following statement:
This is an unfortunate situation and not one the City has taken lightly. After the expansive fire back in 2020 the house was condemned for a multitude of safety reasons. Upon further inspection it was determined that the structure was destroyed to a point that rehabilitating the home was not an option. This was communicated to Lt. Col. Pride with our sincere sympathies.
City leaders gave News 5 additional background on the case and said:
Ms. Pride was originally notified in September that the house was uninhabitable. Her attorney asked for a stay that was granted at that time. They were served again April 23rd and this past Friday the Judge ruled that the house is a nuisance and presents a danger and to proceed with the demolition. As I understand it, her attorney would have notified her then. She had more than nine months to retrieve any personal items, however, from the pictures in the below link, you can see that most was destroyed and in poor condition even before the fire.
It's not clear if Pride will be sent a bill for the demolition, which could total more than $20,000.
Meanwhile, Pride's sister-in-law, Gwen Pride, said the City of Cleveland Heights should have provided more latitude to save the historic home.
“They have nothing on us at all except the fact that it was an eyesore," Pride said. "Well, we had a fire in September, she wasn’t allowed on the land to do whatever she could, she didn’t get her stuff out. It’s unbelievable and it’s outrageous, it’s so sad how they do a veteran who served in the Army. Not even giving her a chance to prove she could do what she said she could do.”