Thieves strike historic Sterling Grove

by Walter Pierce

Make off with irreplaceable doors, transoms, other fixtures from 1899 home being renovated

Once known as "The Last House," the original home of CJ McNaspy in historic Sterling Grove was burglarized over the weekend.

(UPDATE: The stolen items have been recovered. Read more here.)

The whir of a circular saw testified to ongoing work at what was once known in old Lafayette circles as “The Last House,” named for its position adjacent to farmland at what was once the north end of North Sterling Street. But bringing this historic home in what was once Lafayette’s swankiest neighborhood adjacent to Downtown back to its former glory took a huge step back over the weekend when thieves made off with the original doors, transoms, banister and other fixtures — features architect Stephen Ortego calls irreplaceable.

“This is a very meticulously rehab, piecing together clues from past layers and historical information to restore many original spaces and configurations while also modernizing it,” says Ortego, who is overseeing the rehab for private clients.

Most recently the home had been converted into a three-plex. The 118-year-old house was the original home of CJ McNaspy, the first athletic director at South Louisiana Institute (now UL Lafayette) after whom the original on-campus football stadium and track field was named. (McNaspy Stadium was demolished in 2000.)

Ortego says the current owners of the home “are absolutely devastated” by the theft.

“We had taken down each door, door frame, transoms and casings and were almost finished restoring these features when they were taken,” Ortego says. “The banister was also stolen. The thieves kicked in the back door sometime on Sunday night or Monday early morning.”

Ortego says the owners are looking into whether insurance will cover milling replacement pieces for the fixtures stolen, but even that would be cold consolation. “We can use photos and some of my drawings to try to mill new ones,” he says, “but from the historical preservation school of thought in which I was trained, it is not the best practice to try and mimic or fake original pieces.”

If anyone knows who’s behind the theft, they’re urged to call Lafayette Police.