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Renovations, Repairs Planned for Old ‘Theora Hamblett’ House

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor


The owners of the “Theora Hamblett” home plan on making repairs and renovations. Photo via Oxford Planning Dept.

One of Oxford’s most historic homes will be saved from demolition.

On Monday, the owners of the old “Theora Hamblett house” on Van Buren Avenue told the Oxford Historic Preservation Commission that they are willing and finally able to restore the home.

“We haven’t financially been able to fix up the property,” said Doug Fancher, owner of 619 Van Buren. “We are just getting back on our feet. It bothers us greatly we couldn’t do what the house needed done until now.”

According to staff reports, the city has received complaints about the condition of the home located on Van Buren Avenue, for the past several years due to the appearance of the house due to a lack of maintenance.

In August, city staff told commissioners that if no immediate action was taken to repair the home, the home could deteriorate beyond repair.

The commission voted to approve the Demolition of Neglect process, which does not necessarily result in the demolition of a structure, rather it allows the city to take steps to prevent future deterioration of the home.

If the owners do not make the recommended improvements to the home, the city, by law, can do the necessary work on the outside of the home and charge the cost of the repairs back to the homeowners.

After the meeting, city staff were able to meet with the Fanchers who submitted a list Monday of the work they plan to do on the home that was built in 1860 with an addition added in 1920.

  • Clear all vegetation around house and in back yard 2
  • Replace deck in rear of house
  • Replace back door stairs at side of house
  • Refinish or replace both front porches
  • Paint entire house
  • Re-pave driveway
  • Replace all screen doors
  • Repair roof and gables as needed
  • Repair fence along rear property line
  • Repair picket fence at rear of parking area

The commissioners voted unanimously to accept the list of intended repairs but gave the homeowners 30 days to submit their formal renovation plans to city staff for review and an additional 30 days to hire a contractor.

The house is commonly known as the “Theora Hamblett house,” due to its association with Hamblett, who lived there from 1939 until her death in 1977. She became one of the South’s most distinguished self-taught artists. While she lived in the Van Buren home, she rented out rooms to University of Mississippi students when she started painting at the age of 55. More than 600 pieces of her work belong to the University of Mississippi Museum.

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