History on Hold: SW Miami-Dade historic building to remain closed following ‘tacky’ restoration work

(WSVN) - Big issues facing another historic building here in South Florida. It is called “The Little House That Could,” and it has stood strong even through powerful hurricanes, but a plan to bring it back to its former glory could send it crumbling to the ground. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek explains how a little restoration work has put a piece of South Florida’s “History on Hold.”

Preserving South Florida’s Bahamian heritage is a passion for Helen Gage.

Helen Gage, Bethel House Director: “This area was the bedroom, and the kitchen was here.”

For 25 years, she has put in the work at Bethel House in Southwest Miami-Dade.

Helen Gage: “Built in 1937 by Mr. Alfred Clark, a Bahamian, for a Bahamian, Jessie Bethel and her family.”

The house was designated a historic site in 1995 and turned into a museum, but work is needed both inside and out.

Helen Gage: “Every three or four years, these little wood houses, the wood siding, need to be repaired because they get wet.”

Last year, Helen was awarded a county grant to renovate the outside of the house.

She says she hired Isaac’s Roofing and Insulation as a general contractor for nearly $14,000.

Helen Gage: “I reached out to this contractor because he had done work before, he did this roof in ’04.”

The contract included wood siding replacement, repainting the entire house, installing awnings and replacing a broken window.

The company was paid half of the money when work began in October.

When everything was finished a few weeks later, Helen was not happy.

Helen Gage: “This is tacky work! Very tacky work.”

The county’s historic preservation office, which has to approve the work, wasn’t happy either and highlighted “several deficiencies,” including “defective siding,” “gaps in the siding” and “peeling and bubbling paint.”

Helen Gage: “Paint coming off right here. The paint is actually peeling off of the house.”

The county decided not to hand over the rest of the money and said “additional funding for payment cannot be released until the deficiencies noted … have been remediated.”

Helen Gage: “The county will not, they’ve sent me letters, they will not pay him nothing.”

And now Helen says it’s gone from bad to worse. Since the county won’t pay the rest of the money, the contractor is suing not only Bethel House but her personally.

Helen Gage: “I asked Fod, ‘Why is this happening to me?'”

We contacted Isaac’s Roofing and Insulation. The owner sent us this email, saying: “…the disputes between Isaac’s Roofing and Insulation Corporation … and Helen Gage are the subject of a lawsuit now pending in Miami-Dade County court. As such, my attorney has instructed me not to comment.”

Helen Gage: “I’m not afraid of him, and I’m not afraid of his hotshot attorney.”

Helen has now filed complaints with both the state and county.

Meanwhile, she says Bethel House will not reopen until she can figure out a way to get the work repaired.

Helen Gage: “It’s Black History Month, and he spoiled everything.”

Which leaves this part of South Florida’s history on hold.

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