Birthplace of Rain Day demolished

October 28, 2013
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Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter
The last standing wall on the Allison Building, one of the oldest buildings in downtown Waynesburg, is brought down Monday afternoon. Order a Print
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Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter
Work begins to raze the front section of the old Allison Building on High Street in Waynesburg. Order a Print
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Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter
Half of the front section of the Allison Building is demolished revealing part of what will be the new view from High Street. Order a Print
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Bob Niedbala / Observer-Reporter
Demolition work begins on the last half of the Allison Building Monday afternoon. Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – The Allison Building, one of the oldest buildings in downtown Waynesburg and considered the birth place of Rain Day, is no more.

Work to raze the 180-year-old building started Saturday morning and concluded for the most part Monday afternoon, when the three-story building was reduced to a large pile of wood and brick.

Throughout the day, the demolition drew crowds of onlookers, many of whom used cameras or cell phones to record the old building’s demise. Traffic was halted on High Street for about two hours Monday afternoon to allow work to proceed.

“It went as well as it could,” said Bryan Cumberledge, assistant borough manager and borough code enforcement officer. “Nobody has been hurt and there’s been no damage, so far,” he said, as the last wall came down about 3:45 p.m.

Tap Excavating started to demolish the building Saturday morning and removed the rear sections by Saturday afternoon when its excavator became stuck in the debris and had to be pulled out with a tow truck.

The work resumed Monday morning but was halted about 11:30 a.m., this time because of concerns about heavy dust coming from the demolition site. Though the contractor had a company on hand to spray water on the building, more water was needed to reduce the large amount of dust created by the work.

Cumberledge said he asked the contractor to halt the operation until a plan was developed to suppress the dust and ensure brick or other debris from the front of the building did not fall onto High Street. “We want them to address the dust and any hazard that may be created in the demolition,” he said.

The borough and contractor coordinated efforts to develop a plan to complete the work, Cumberledge said.

The Waynesburg-Franklin Township Volunteer Fire Co. brought in a tanker truck to provide addition water for dust suppression. High Street also was closed from 2 to about 4 p.m., and traffic detoured onto side streets.

The building, which dates to the 1830s, was purchased in June by the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Greene County. An engineer inspected the building and found it had numerous structural deficiencies, including collapsed load-bearing walls.

The engineer determined the building was “economically unfeasible to repair,” Judi Goodwin Tanner, president and chief executive officer of the bank, said earlier.

“We are aware of the history of the building but we are also very concerned about the safety of the people on the street,” Tanner said. Having to demolishing the building was “very unfortunate,” she said.

Century Construction and Development Corp. of Chalk Hill, which does construction work for the bank, had arranged the demolition with Tap Excavating, which has experience in demolition work, said Robert Guerriere, Century president.

Guerriere thanked the borough and fire company for its assistance in the project. “Those guys were super, the borough, the firemen, the police. You don’t get that everywhere,” he said. Guerriere said it will take about four or five days to truck away the building’s debris.

The building was constructed in the 1830s possibly by Albert G. Allison. It was his son or grandson, William Allison, who is credited with starting the Rain Day tradition in 1875.

William Allison worked as a clerk in the Allison Building for the J.T. Rogers & Co. Drugstore. According to Rain Day legend, Allison started keeping a record of the weather July 29 after hearing a farmer complain it rained every year on that date, his birthday. Allison began making friendly wagers with others that it would rain July 29.

The bank currently has no plans to rebuild on the site and the property will be used for customer parking. If the bank later decided to expand its main office, that site will probably be used, Tanner said.

The bank plans to keep samples of the brick from the old building. “If we decide to build, we’d like to build a building that mirrors the one there now,” she said.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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