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Historic building threatens adjacent home

By Staff | Aug 12, 2009

NOT WHAT IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE — This large fracture in the structure of the historic carriage house on Main Street in Sistersville has neighbors and the City Council worried about a possible collapse.

The Sistersville City Council moved to take action against a weather-worn historic building on Main Street that is crumbling from the inside out.

The carriage house, located across the street from the United Methodist Church, has adjacent property owner Penny Howard concerned about the safety of her home and the devastation that could plague the community should the four-story structure tumble to the ground.

The problem arose from a minor hairline fracture in the building’s foundation from the second story to the top with a large crack facing Howard’s home. When Walker Boyd owned the building, he patched the hole, but the primitive blocks that make up the base of the structure were unable to withstand the test of time and freezing and thawing has taken a toll. According to Howard, one of the holes is so large she can put her fist through it.

The building’s owner, Norman Todd, was made aware of the situation and told Howard and the council he would do something to prevent further deterioration. His solution was to strap the building to prevent it from falling. At the time, Sistersville’s contracted building inspector Dave White agreed with the plan. But to date, nothing has been done and the summer months have wreaked havoc on the already fragile foundation of the historic structure.

“I looked at the building and some of the blocks are actually crushed through the middle,” Howard explained. “I started complaining about this building after a piece fell off the top of it and hit my gas meter. It’s beyond repair and strapping it is not going to fix it.”

Howard doubts the building will last another winter.

Mayor Fox said, “There is no question that building is a danger.”

In Howard’s mind, there is no doubt the building is a danger to her home and poses a threat to the city as a whole. She commented, “I feel like everyone here is caught in a catch-22. But it comes down to protecting the lives of the people on the street. If we don’t do anything and someone dies, I can guarantee CNN and all of the news networks will be in and we are going to have to answer as to why we didn’t fix that building. It’s not an issue where we are upset with anyone, we are just scared to death because our gas meter is right there. The gas company told me years ago if that building falls and hits that meter in the right place it will explode.”

For added leverage, Howard contacted her insurance company for help in the matter. “They told me they can’t do anything until the building falls. I spoke to attorney and asked if he could do something and he said no, not until the building falls. I’m getting this from everyone.”

“And that’s the problem these days. No one wants to be the bad guy. They are afraid if they say something it will backfire on them,” Fox remarked.

Fox told Howard he would draft a letter to Todd requesting action be taken to repair the building.