Neighbors concerned about burning ‘oldest house in Hanover’

This home at 11174 River Rd. in Hanover is the oldest standing house in the city. Neighbors are concerned about removing hazardous materials from the home before it is proposed to be burned as part of a practice drill. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom.)

This home at 11174 River Rd. in Hanover is the oldest standing house in the city. Neighbors are concerned about removing hazardous materials from the home before it is proposed to be burned as part of a practice drill. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom.)

Some neighbors living next door to Hanover’s oldest standing house are concerned with plans for the house to be burned as part of a practice drill.

The house is at 11174 River Rd. and was the original William and Amelia Vollbrecht homestead built in 1868. Next door neighbor Bob Miller heard about plans by the Hanover Fire and Rescue Department to burn the house.

In a letter to the city, Miller noted that the home is now owned by the West Air company, which operates directly east of the home. Miller heard that the home would be burned May 18.

“I have been in West Air’s house on 11174 River Road,” Miller said. “The living room walls and ceiling are covered with tin and crusted with multiple layers of paint and all the paint in the first 100 years of the house’s life was lead-based. My house has asbestos insulation on the heating pipes and vermiculite insulation in the attic and I guess 11174 does also. I hope the state’s approval was conditional on the home owner (West Air) removing the lead and asbestos before burning the old house down.”

Miller said he was concerned because “one fiber of asbestos can cause cancer.”

“If lead and asbestos exist, I further request that you physically confirm it is removed before the Hanover Fire Department incinerates the home and releases toxins into the air,” he said.

City clerk Annita Smythe said the fire chief and homeowner have done testing for asbestos and are in touch with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources “to apply for whatever permits are required.” She said, “The department has not intention of going forward with something that would cause an environmental issue.”

Miller and wife, Mary Coons, are members of the Hanover Historical Society, and Coons wrote about the home in her book about Hanover history: “To the west of the Vollbrecht Hardware Store [WestAir] was the original William and Amelia Vollbrecht homestead (11174 River Road) built in 1868. (William Vollbrecht was one of the founding brothers of Hanover.) An upper floor bedroom still has the built-in tin bathtub encased in wood with a wooden cover closing over it. The tiny partial basement features its original dirt floor. The main floor still has its original tin ceilings and walls engulfed in layer upon layer of paint.”

Miller later said that his issues are being addressed by the PCA “who stated hazardous material must be removed and the site inspected by the prior to burning the house.”

Sean O’Connor from the PCA told Miller that the fire department has not submitted a 10-day demolition notification.

“The rule(s) requires all asbestos and hazardous materials to be removed prior,” O’Connor said.

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