In 1891 an active men’s organization in Crothersville—the Odd Fellows Lodge—constructed a two-story brick building at the corner of Armstrong & Howard Streets in the heart of the bustling town’s business district. The structure served a dual purpose. At street level two retail businesses added to the local commerce. The upstairs was used as a meeting hall for the men’s organization.
Over the decades the lower floors have been home to pharmacies, barbershops, public library, and a variety of retail shops.
Now in 2015, 124 years later, the building is all but abandoned. It has been years since any business occupied the building and decades since the now defunct Odd Fellows Lodge met.
Windows are broken, damaged, missing. Brick is cracked and deteriorated. Portions of the building brick show the signs of cracking and possible structural damage. Siding is missing and dislodged.
The historic but crumbling building in the center of town has been on two delinquent property tax sales and is on next month’s county commissioners certificate sale in which the property will be offered for sale at a minimum bid of $200.
The building’s owner, Environmental Awareness Reached Through Helping Hands (EARTHH), has been cited by the town for being in violation of the community’s derelict building ordinance. Jackson Circuit Court Judge Rick Poynter has issued an order requiring the owner to make repairs but no response has occurred.
The eyesore and safety hazard in the middle of town prompted a post meeting discussion at the conclusion of last week’s town council meeting.
“Ordinarily, I don’t feel that government should be in the building renovation business,” said town council president Ardell Mitchell. “But this may be different.”
The town recently hired a contractor who dismantled and removed the building’s deteriorating canopy along Howard Street. Fearing it would collapse into the street and sidewalk, the town paid to have the safety hazard removed.
Mitchell acknowledges that if the town gets involved to preserve the building it will be a money losing proposition.
Both Mitchell and council member Lenvel ‘Butch’ Robinson are both experienced in the construction industry. Mitchell is a project engineer with Harmon Construction; Robinson is a foreman with Force Construction.
Both agree that the building as it stands today is not conducive to a positive image for the town.
And they both agree to tear the structure down will be a $100,000 proposition because of the buildings close proximity to other buildings, US 31 and electric lines.
“If the town could, do we want to preserve it?” Mitchell asked. He acknowledged that the town could spend considerable amount of money to make the building structurally sound and only be able to sell it for considerably less.
“Can it be preserved?” queried Robinson. “It was built of soft brick and has absorbed water for many years and has gone through freezing and thawing.”
“I just don’t like the idea of tearing it down,” said Mitchell. “We have lost a lot of our downtown buildings.”
“Yes but what business would be interested in locating there. Sure it is at the center of town but there’s no parking. Will a business be interested in buying there?” said Robinson.
“I don’t think we need another vacant lot in town. Is the community better off with saving it?” Mitchell asked in closing the discussion.
Indeed, what to do…