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November 15, 2013

Becoming History

Building at corner of Main Street, North 3rd Street to be torn down

CORBIN — By John L. Ross / Staff Writer

A prominent piece of downtown Williamsburg’s history will soon become just that — history.

The city of Williamsburg began the process this week requesting bids to tear down the building at the corner of Main Street and North 3rd Street — the three-story brightly-colored building “catty-corner” to the courthouse.

Mayor Roddy Harrison said that while the Whitley County Public Library owns the property — the city is assisting with the bidding process.

Harrison explained the building has fallen into a state of disrepair — openings in windows in upper floors have allowed pigeons to roost inside the walls and interior of the building.

Those pigeons have left their droppings throughout the upper floors of the commercial structure.

A visual staple of the downtown area since the late 1800s, Harrison said the building has been host to several various types of businesses during its century-plus long life.

There was a department store, as well as several different grocery stores.

During the 1940s, well-known resident Homer Davis owned and operated Davis Grocery from that location.

Sometime during the 1950s it came under the ownership of Bill Triplett and his wife, Wilma Triplett — they also ran a grocery store in the building called Triplett’s Grocery.

Resident Gordon Hurley managed the building as Hurley’s Food Market up into the 1970s.

In the 1980s, the building came under the ownership of Charles Freeman, who opened Stewart’s Grocery.

Also during that time, Leisure Time Pool and Hobbies moved into a section of the building and remained there for 20 years until the building was purchased around 2004 by Gorman Jones.

A Williamsburg attorney also used a portion of the building for some time, according to Harrison.

He added that before Prohibition, the second floor of the building was a dance hall, and included what he called “a very nice bar.”

Harrison toured the building sometime in the 1980s, he said, and at that time the bar and the stools were still there.

In October 2011, the Whitley County Library Board voted to purchase the building from 1st State Financial Bank for $25,000 — the matching $25,000 came as a donation from the bank.

But the mayor said the latest view of the building showed it was just not feasible for the library to renovate. Harrison added the walls of the building would not be able to support book-laden shelves for the library.

Not to mention the building houses those unwanted feathery tenants.

Harrison said the building has really become a safety issue — in viewing the building from the street, some of the brickwork appears to be coming loose from the structure and evidence of the pigeons can be seen smeared down the windows.

Bid packets for the demolition of the building are available in Williamsburg City Hall or on the city’s website, www.williamsburgky.com.

The contractor must demolish and completely remove the building, and Harrison said the project must be complete in 60 days. According to the bid packet, if the contractor awarded the bid fails to complete the work per the agreement, the city will charge $100 a day in “liquidated damages.”

Harrison said demolishing the historical building “was the saddest part” of the process, but reiterated that the building was in too far a state of disrepair to be feasible to fix.

Bids are due in city hall no later than 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22.

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