As most of you know by now, on Sunday afternoon there was a major storm that hit Indiana. We had more tornadoes in a single day than had ever been recorded before in November. There was a lot of damage all over the Midwest, but something more personal to us also happened.
On the corner of Ritter Avenue and Washington Street in Indianapolis was a very old building. It was originally built to house the U.S. Post Office for Irvington, Indiana, back before it became part of Indianapolis. This building has been just another piece of commercial property for decades, but it is still a part of the history of the town of Irvington.
This picture came from Bill Gulde's blog post in December of 2012 when the rehabilitation was announced. You can check out his entire blog at vintageirvington.blogspot.com. It's well worth checking out!
This building has been empty since 1997, was neglected, and in need of many repairs. Since then many people tried to get the building donated or purchased so that it could be rehabilitated and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It took countless hours, a significant number of people, and the help of several organizations, but finally late last year the purchase was achieved. The IDO (Irvington Development Organization) and Irvington Historical Society were able to create an LLC and to get the project off the ground.
This picture was taken from Bing. It shows the hole in the roof of the old Post Office.
The initial stabilization was done and included removing the badly damaged roof. Other work was started and fund raising begun. The steel beams for the new roof were to be delivered on Monday, 11/19. But it was not to be. During the storm on Sunday the side walls collapsed and the rest of the building had to be demolished for safety reasons. It was heartbreaking to see.
As with any disaster, people came out in droves to see the destruction. Some of these people were neighbors that truly had an interest (positive or negative) in the project. Others just came to see. But some began complaining that the building was completely unstable, that the project had been a danger, the stabilization done incorrectly…
I would like to take this chance to put in my two cents worth. We (Eric and I) are somewhat familiar with the project. Last winter we (ARE Surveying) were asked to do a survey on the property and locate the building. This we did, and that is about all we know of how the project was moving forward. But I do know that when you are dealing with an old building, you had better be willing to throw out almost everything you know about renovation, building, codes, houses, etc. The materials used 100+ years ago are very different than modern ones, especially after buildings have sat and deteriorated for over a century! Each of these projects will be different, and each will have unbelievable challenges to overcome. It makes me very sad that there are people out there who are taking this opportunity to complain about how things have been handled. I guess I am especially sensitive to this because that easily could have been the Horner House. Eric and I are doing our best and so did the people trying to save the old Post Office. Straight line winds can destroy new buildings being built or even buildings in good repair, and old buildings stand even less of a chance. The poor outcome should in no way reflect on the good intentions, money, effort and love people expended in moving this project forward.
And while we are extremely thankful that no one was hurt, we are very sad to lose another piece of our community’s precious history.