A little after 4:00 p.m. this afternoon, an historic corner building at 1401 Story Avenue (aka 103 Webster Street) collapsed, destroying the front half of the vernacular-style brick and limestone commercial building. The structure had been under renovation for several years and an interior demolition permit originally issued in June of 2008 was still open for the building. Property records indicate the structure was owned by James R. Hennessey but a phone number associated with the building permit had been disconnected. The building was reportedly vacant at the time of collapse.
Andy Cornelius, president of the Butchertown Neighborhood Association, was on the scene this afternoon and says that most of the front half of the building collapsed toward Story Avenue. He reports that a demolition crew is on the way to clean up the mess of debris covering Webster Street and Story Avenue but there’s no word on the fate of the standing portion of the building or the separate structure next door. He says it’s imperative for the neighboring structure to be saved for the integrity of the neighborhood.
The neighboring commercial building is owned by another party and appears to be structurally independent of the collapsed building. Some work likely must be done to weatherproof the now-exposed structural wall of the adjacent building as the brick used may not have been intended to be exposed to the elements.
I reported in 2009 that a consignment store had opened at 1403 Story Avenue, but subsequently closed last November. The owner of the business said that while the store was open, work was actively being done to the collapsed structure.
It may be too late for the back half of the building that collapsed. The structure was composed of two distinct halved—a two-and-a-half story front portion and a two-story back half. There is a visible brick joint separating the two which could indicate that the back half was an addition at some point in the 19th century.
While the standing portion of the building appears to be standing on its own with no deformation of its structural walls, judging on the city’s response to similar situations, they will move to take down the entire structure as soon as possible. It will, no doubt, be done in the name of “public safety.”
According to the inspection history on the building permit (#200890), inspections have routinely not taken place due to lack of entry or have failed for other reasons since late 2008. No one at the city could be reached at the time of writing for comment.
Photos from 2008 show bricks had been removed from the interior of the structure (stacked against the building and on the back of a truck), but there’s no evidence to suggest a correlation to today’s collapse.
Check out a great gallery of aerial views of the collapse site over at WHAS 11. I’ll post more information when it becomes available.