Losing local history along High Street
It may be coming to the point where the row of buildings along High Street in Waynesburg will resemble something akin to a gap-toothed grin.
That might be a slight exaggeration, but the news of late does not bode well for some longstanding buildings along the borough’s main thoroughfare.
It was just two years ago that a wrecker’s ball leveled two side-by-side buildings on High Street – the Colonial Inn, which had apartments on the second floor, and a building occupied by Hudson’s Jewelers and Lam’s Garden, a Chinese restaurant that subsequently relocated to Washington Street.
Frankly, the Colonial Inn and Lam’s Garden were never considered centerpieces to the borough’s architectural integrity. Moreover, these buildings were deemed to be structurally damaged, and removing them, if just for safety reasons, seemed like a viable plan. When Waynesburg University bought them and contracted to have them torn down, the only public outcry came from a controversy over lease issues with the restaurant owners
Bruce Wermlinger, who was borough manager at the time, went so far as to say a historical survey in the 1980s ruled the buildings were noncontributing, nonhistorical buildings.
The loss of these two buildings created a gap between the Waynesburg Theater building and First National Bank, albeit it a somewhat attractive green space.
Now, we learn one of the oldest buildings in downtown Waynesburg, which an engineer determined to be structurally deficient, also will soon face the wrecking ball.
The Allison Building, considered the birthplace of Rain Day, was purchased in June by First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Greene County.
An engineering firm inspected the three-story building after the bank received an option to purchase it from its previous owner, Dave Coder, and the engineers found the building had a number of structural deficiencies and determined it would be “economically unfeasible to repair,” said Judi Goodwin Tanner, president and chief executive officer of the bank.
Among the engineer’s findings were that some of the brick, load-bearing walls collapsed, while others were in a state at which their collapse was imminent, she said.
Unlike the Colonial and Lam’s, this building has a history, constructed in the 1830s and named after William Allison, who worked as a clerk in the building at J.T. Rogers & Co. Drugstore. According to Rain Day legend, Allison started keeping a record of the weather for July 29 after hearing a farmer complain it rained every year on that date, his birthday. Allison began the tradition of making friendly wagers with others that it would rain July 29.
But sadly, we find again that safety trumps history, and as Tanner said, “We are also very concerned about the safety of the people on the street. Having to demolish the building, I think, is very unfortunate.”
We commend the bank for its straightforwardness. From what we know, it currently has no plans to rebuild on the site, and the property will be used for customer parking. If, however, the bank needs to expand its main office, that site probably will be used.
From our perspective, no effort was made over the course of time to upgrade the building or ensure its safety for the tenants. That, we are afraid, led to its demise.
While it’s just a matter of time before the Allison Building is demolished, we continue to wait on the fate of the adjacent former county building, which a developer plans to convert into apartments.
Things seem to be progressing in a positive way, relative to parking issues and the like.
So, we remain hopeful the building is saved and does not become another gaping hole on High Street.