Demolition Debate Over Legendary Ocean Springs House - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/23/05

Demolition Debate Over Legendary Ocean Springs House

The story involves the legend of a gangster, a question of property rights, and a possible family feud.

And it's unfolding in Ocean Springs.

There's all sorts of debate and disagreement over a son's desire to demolish a homestead known as "Del Castle". The nearly 80-year-old home on the bayou reflects a much earlier era. Del Castle is the famed Al Capone house, reputedly used by the gangster as a hideout.

Bruce Legate is the man who wishes to demolish it. The application says he intends to, "eventually build a new home that will reflect the beauty of Ocean Springs and honor the memory of my loving parents".

His elderly parents are still very much alive. Father, Brooks Legate, wrote the city two letters, pleading to save the homestead.

The most recent letter reads, in part, "our son has expressed a desire to tear down and destroy our home in its entirety. Why he wants to do such is beyond any reasoning. He offered no explanation."

The son's attorney told the historic preservation commission that renovating Del Castle would be cost prohibitive; some $300,000 or more.

Donovan Scruggs is planning director for Ocean Springs.

"Members of the historical preservation commission did walk the site and found the site to be, surprisingly, in very good condition. With a structure as large as that one is, any improvements are going to be costly," said Scruggs.

The historic preservation commission lobbied to get more involved with the permit process following last year's demolition of the old French bakery building to make way for First Baptist Church's new construction. Following that controversial demolition, the historic commission helped re-write the ordinance and requested a voice in any future demolition of structures at least 50 years old.

"We want to preserve our history. We want to preserve our old buildings and we want to preserve the character of Ocean Springs," said commission member Sonya Cowart.

The historic preservation commission hasn't yet made a recommendation on Del Castle. The board of aldermen has the final say.

There's also some legal question about whether the son, Bruce Legate, has control of the estate. That issue will be determined in chancery court.

By the way, both Bruce Legate and his attorney, declined to comment for this story.

By Steve Phillips

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