In the past century, the Franklin home has been through a fire, had multiple owners and fell into disrepair.

Neighbors Carol and Mike Dale watched as the home went up for sale and went to auction for unpaid taxes but was never fixed.

The 588-square-foot home always had fascinated them. So when they learned they could get the home for a lower price and with years of unpaid taxes and fees forgiven, they jumped on the opportunity.

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The home at 551 W. Madison St. was one of five properties the Franklin Development Corp. got from the county through an agreement that forgives unpaid taxes and fees on abandoned properties that repeatedly have not sold at tax sale. The nonprofit organization, which was formed and funded by the city, can then sell those properties to owners who will fix them and begin paying taxes on them again.

In its first try with the program, the Franklin Development Corp. sold two homes and two vacant pieces of property, and is working with potential buyers on a third home on the list, said Rhoni Oliver, Franklin community development specialist.

And now, officials are looking at two more homes along Jefferson Street, she said.

The goal is to get the properties sold to someone who will fix and maintain them, and hopefully spark similar projects at neighboring properties, said Kim Minton, a member of the Franklin Development Corp. board.

“Once you do one, and you fix a problem property, it’s kind of a domino effect, or we are hoping it will be,” Minton said.

The first five properties the organization focused on included two vacant pieces of property on Cincinnati Street and Johnson Avenue, both of which went to adjacent property owners even if they hadn’t made the highest bid. In both cases, selling the land to neighboring owners made sense because they had either been maintaining the land or had been dealing with issues due to it being abandoned for years, Oliver said.

Two of the three homes — the one on Madison Street and a long vacant home at 544 W. Jefferson St. — were both sold to local residents who plan to fix them and have a plan to do the work, Oliver said. The board turned down bids on a third home on Kentucky Street, but Oliver is working with other potential buyers who are interested, she said.

Next on the list are two more homes on Jefferson Street that have long been vacant, at 847 E. Jefferson St. and 420 W. Jefferson St. Officials have just identified the properties, which did not sell at this year’s tax sale, as possibilities for the program and not yet started the process to try to get the overdue taxes forgiven, Oliver said.

Jefferson Street is a key focus area because it is a gateway into downtown, where significant improvements have been made in recent years, Minton said.

The other home on Jefferson Street that was included in this year’s program is set to get more than $200,000 in improvements, which will be a fix for a unique home that city officials have wanted to see repaired for years, Oliver said. At one point, tearing the home down was a possibility, but Oliver had always hoped that wouldn’t happen, she said.

“It’s right on Jefferson Street, it will be an amazing house when it’s fixed up, it’s not something that would ever be built again,” Oliver said.

The plans for that home and the one purchased by Mike and Carol Dale on Madison Street are exactly what the city and the Franklin Development Corp. were hoping would come out of the program to get the back taxes forgiven and allow the agency to sell them, she said.

The project is one Mike and Carol Dale have been wanting to see happen for years, especially since they live a block away, Carol Dale said.

They have also fallen in love with the home built in 1900, spending hours researching its past and former owners, which included a well-respected African American woman, Ida Williams, who married, had children and lived in the home until the 1940s.

“We feel like we know this family and it’s been a lot of fun just to see where they lived,” she said.

Their plan is to restore the home, which was originally built as a two-room cabin, to a historical look and bring it out of its current state of disrepair. That will include removing layers of added siding but also insulating and fixing walls, replacing broken windows and repairing the foundation, she said. They plan to use historical materials whenever possible, she said.

“This is what we do instead of going on vacations. We love working on houses,” she said.

With the size of the home, which is now just four rooms, and the popularity of tiny homes, they think finding ideas for interior design will be easy, she said.

They have no plans to sell the home, and instead think they can have family stay there when they visit, she said.

“We are going to renovate it and hope it will be really cute when we get done,” she said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.