WHITEHALL — A dilapidated, buckling Main Street building that Whitehall officials had long feared could collapse finally gave way on Sunday, causing Village Mayor Phil Smith to announce a local state of emergency and close a portion of Main Street.
Crews demolished the building at around 5:30 p.m. The Whitehall Police Department said as of 6:20 p.m. that the building was down to the ground. As of 7:30 p.m., crews had finished cleanup for the day, but will return Monday.
The “Flatiron Building,” as it is known, partially collapsed Sunday morning, leaving a part still leaning precariously toward the fire house. No injuries were reported, but Whitehall Police Sgt. Richard LaChapelle said fallen bricks had been blocked off in the road and firetrucks were removed from the fire station as a precaution.
Around 4 p.m., Whitehall Deputy Fire Chief Jim Brooks said the state Department of Environmental Conservation, National Grid and village crews were on scene to finish demolishing the building. He said he’d been inside the station when he heard the low rumble, and he went outside to find the old building partially collapsed.
“Everything is cornered off,” he said in a phone interview. “They’ll try to take it down in as controlled of a manner as it can. It’s been quite an eyesore for a while.”
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National Grid was also on scene, shutting power off to the area while crews worked to safely demolish the building, according to an evening press release from Washington County’s Department of Public Safety. Residents in the immediate Broadway area were allowed to seek shelter in the Whitehall Rec Center on William Street.
An updated press release at 7:30 p.m. said National Grid was working to restore power to the street, all roadways were reopened and all residents had returned home. The state of emergency remained in effect, however, as the cleanup of the site continues. Smith will reevaluate the call Monday, according to the release.
The mayor thanked the village Department of Public Works, the Whitehall Police Department, the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company, Skenesborough EMS, DEC police and others “who assisted in ensuring the safety of the personnel and public while the building was taken down.”
The three-story building, locally referred to as the “Flatiron Building” because of its similarity to a New York City landmark, has been abandoned for years and has continued to bow and shed bricks. It is near the Amtrak train station, but LaChapelle said the bricks did not reach the train tracks.
The 160 Main St. building has been stuck in an ownership limbo for more than a year after its owners died, and their will did not specify to whom it should go.
Village officials have had multiple discussions on how to move forward with demolishing the building. It was originally placed on the Washington County tax sale list, but was removed due to the liability.