For Columbia's historic Taylor House, a sudden foreclosure

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:46 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 25, 2012

COLUMBIA — A month ago, the grass and trees at 716 W. Broadway looked wild and overgrown.

Vines scaled the exterior of the old colonial-style home. Decaying pumpkins and dated newspapers littered the yard and porch.

The Taylor House, which occupies a prominent place on a high-end section of Broadway, looked neglected and unkempt.

The shabby state of the house startled neighbors and passersby until early October, when the property was finally cleaned up.

Wells Fargo now owns the nationally recognized historic landmark, which entered foreclosure Sept. 17.

Taylor House loans remain a mystery

Neighbors had noticed changes to the property before then, said Christiane Quinn, who has lived across from Taylor House for 16 years.

"We were thinking, 'Why is all that trash there?' and then I stopped seeing him (Robert Tucker) outside, and then the furniture was gone," Quinn said.

Several neighbors didn’t even know the house was in foreclosure until they learned about it from the media. When they did hear about the foreclosure, many neighbors said they could not understand how it happened.

A look at property records in Boone County shed some light on the situation.

According to Boone County Clerk records, former owners Robert and Deborah Tucker bought the house in 1999. That same year, they invested more than $1 million in renovations to return the property to its original 1909 floor plan.

The Boone County Assessor's website puts the current appraised value of Taylor House at approximately $467,000.

Robert Tucker took a mortgage of $580,000 in November 2006 and another loan of $250,000 in February 2007, according to the Boone County Recorder of Deeds.

Whether the loans have been paid is unclear. The Tuckers could not be reached for comment about the circumstances surrounding the sale of the property.

Neighbors speculate about Taylor House's past and future

What is known is that the Tuckers opened the Taylor House Inn in 2001 as a bed and breakfast. It was not an easy task.

Getting planning and zoning approval was difficult, said Chamber of Commerce President Don Laird.

"They went through quite a bit to get it set up correctly," Laird said, adding that the Tuckers had to complete several processes through Columbia’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Despite the time and money the Tuckers spent to open their business, records from the Boone County Assessor's Office indicate they closed the Taylor House Inn in 2004, after operating it as an inn for three years. Later that year, the house was put up for sale, with an asking price of $1.4 million.

Then, after the property was on the market for two years, the Tuckers reconsidered selling. In 2007, they reopened it as a bed and breakfast, but after the three-year break, neighbors say the business just wasn’t the same.

"After not running it for three years, it was never like it used to be," Quinn said.

Lillian Sung, who has lived two houses down from the Taylor House since 2001, speculated that nightly room rates had been considered too high in recent years,  which could have possibly driven business down. Sung said the bed and breakfast did not seem busy.

While the inn’s most recent rates could not be verified, rates listed on its website in 2002 showed the five rooms at the inn cost from $125 to $145 per night. In 2006, rates were $135 to $155 per night.

Since the property has been zoned as a bed and breakfast, Quinn believes it could still be operated as such.

"Right now if anybody wants to buy that property, they could just move in and run a business," Quinn said.

The Taylor House could be turned into an apartment complex, but it will most likely remain a private residence or bed and breakfast, Laird said.

"They (the neighbors) have lived with a bed and breakfast, so they would probably want it to stay as that," Laird said.  

Typically, when a house is in foreclosure, it could be a matter of weeks or even months until the house is officially listed.

Historic consultant Debbie Sheals said there aren’t many foreclosures in that section of West Broadway, and houses there tend to sell quickly.

"Properties (along West Broadway) don’t sit on the market very long," Sheals said. "A lot of those houses don’t even get on the market before word of mouth spreads that a house is going up for sale."

Regardless of what happens, Quinn said she is anxious about the future of the historic property.

"We’re kind of sad and curious to see what happens," Quinn said. "As neighbors, we only see the pattern of things, and it takes awhile before we know something actually changes."

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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