COMING DOWN – A crowd gathered on June 22, to watch the Springville Hotel be torn down.
SPRINGVILLE — A historic era has come to an end, with the razing of the Springville Hotel, which stood in the heart of the village for more than 130 years.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS — Pictured is the Springville Hotel when it was called The Mansion House, some time around the turn of the century. Photo provided by the Concord Historical Society.
The former Mansion House Hotel was built in 1879 and renamed the International Hotel, in 1906. The building has stood vacant and unused for approximately seven years, according to Springville Mayor William Krebs.
“The current owner could not use the facility as a successful business and he could not maintain the building,” Krebs said. “He could also not dispose of it, apparently. When that happens, buildings will decay and eventually become a blight and a threat to public safety.”
Several years ago, a condemnation order was issued, to the owner. Back taxes began to accumulate.
“The village spent a lot of money on the lawsuit against the owner,” said Revitalize Springville member Seth Wochensky. “It was a misdirected action. They would have had more solutions provided in local courts.”
Wochensky said that the village was legally authorized to enact eminent domain, against the owner.
“At a cost of $15,000 in legal fees, eminent domain would wipe out all back taxes, etc,” he added. “The trustees were never interested in this, because they wanted to get their $15,000 back and the building wasn’t worth that.”
During an April 15 Springville Board meeting, Code Enforcement Officer Michael Kaleta announced that the Springville Hotel had begun to lose parts of its roof, during a recent windstorm. At that time, Kaleta said that the village would pursue demolition.
“Up until probably two months or so ago, I was still in hope that some brave person would suddenly appear and try to get it back together,” he said.
During that meeting, the village board authorized Attorney Johanna Healy to prepare a resolution for demolition.
On May 13, Kaleta again toured the Springville Hotel and said that “my hopes that [the building] could be saved went out the window.”
The village continued pursuing the building’s demolition and, according to Krebs, also remained in contact with Erie County, in the hope that a grant could be obtained, to cover the cost of the building take down. “The county’s involvement started in the fall,” Krebs said. “We were hoping that, by April, [the hotel] would come down, but the paperwork didn’t come through.” Village Administrator Tim Horner said, “We wanted to have the grant before the demolition. But it was all up in the air.”
Early on June 22, Kaleta entered the Springville Hotel with an inspector, to complete surveys, in anticipation of demolition.
“We couldn’t open the door that we’d been using and, as I got it open a little bit, I noticed you could see the roof from inside,” Kaleta said.
Upon further inspection, Kaleta determined that the second and third floors had completely collapsed, leaving the outside walls without any form of support.
“The structural integrity had changed, quite a bit, since I had been there,” Kaleta said. “It was significantly different.”
Kaleta immediately asked for an emergency demolition resolution. “The building could buckle and the walls could go in or out,” Krebs said. “It was in danger of falling down and threatening the public safety.”
Calls were made to Erie County, available contractors and to the village attorneys, who were asked to draw up the emergency resolution, which Krebs then signed.
“We had the demolition order from before, issued by the [New York State] Supreme Court,” Kaleta said. “It would’ve been nice to have [the demolition] more planned out, if the building would have held up more.”
The owners of both the hotel and the adjoining properties were notified, by hand-delivered letters, “that they could not occupy their properties, while the demolition was in process,” according to Krebs.
THERE SHE BLOWS — Workers hastened to demolish the building in a timely manner, in response to an emergency demolition resolution written by Code Enforcement Officer Michael Kaleta.
On the morning of June 23, AfterMath Restoration Inc. and its subcontractors, including Hannon Site Development, arrived at 53 West Main St., to begin demolition of the three-story, wood frame building.
The sidewalks quickly filled with bystanders, who watched through the afternoon, as the site was cleared and the building readied for leveling.
“The minds got together and put a strategy together,” Kaleta said. “We didn’t need pieces’ falling on the restaurant or on the road. No one was hurt. That’s the important thing.”
AN OLD LANDMARK — Concord Highway Superintendent and Springville Fire Chief Dennis Dains keeps an eye on the demolition at the Springville Hotel.
Members of the Springville Police Department, Erie County Sheriff’s Department and the Springville Volunteer Fire Department assisted in traffic and spectator control, while the demolition occurred.
“It was precautionary,” Kaleta said, about the police presence. “The same thing with the fire department. When the building was coming down ... police were there, to make sure people weren’t getting too close.”
FIRST CUTS — The back section of the former Springville Hotel was the first phase of the demolition.
After logistics were ironed out, the entire demolition took approximately half an hour to complete. Materials, such as metal and copper, were recycled and the rest of the rubble was taken to Waste Management.
Erie County is in the process of foreclosing on the land, which still belongs to the hotel owner, Brian Rupp. According to Krebs, the process should be completed by early fall. “There is such a large sum of money in back taxes [that] we anticipate that no one will bid on the property,” he said. “It’s an upside-down property. There’s more owed than what the property is worth.”
Krebs said that the county will seek to transfer ownership of the Main Street land to the village which will, in turn, sign the property over to an owner who will “properly use it,” according to the mayor. “The village is looking forward to partnership with Erie County,” he said. “It’s our goal to get the property back into use that will benefit the village.”
QUITE A PARTY — Crowds started gathering early Saturday morning, on both sides of Springville’s Main Street, to watch the demolition of the Springville Hotel.
Kaleta said that many bystanders shared stories about the time they spent in the hotel. “It affected a lot of people, over the years,” he said. “I look at this as a failure. My job is to save these buildings, not tear them down.”
A GREAT FALL — The location of the former Springville Hotel sported a pile of rubble, two days after the condemned building was razed, by local work forces.
Krebs called the building’s razing “a loss to the village, as far as our historic, architectural heritage. It is sad, but public safety is the main concern of village government.”
According to the mayor, the Erie County and village of Springville cooperation on this building was featured in the county’s new economic development plan, “Initiatives for a Smart Economy.”
Wochensky called for a more serious approach to the issue of distressed properties. “The village is willing to mow a lawn on an abandoned property, but not to take any other action to bring something into compliance with the code,” he said. “The village had the ability to put a roof on the hotel and put it on the back taxes and have the county reimburse it. Over and over again, any proposed solutions were dismissed.”
The newly-begun Springville Property Rehabilitation Program has a stated goal of encouraging the people of Springville to voluntarily upkeep their homes, businesses and land. “We have a problem in Springville of properties’ not being maintained and not being used properly,” Krebs said. “We are, as a village government, addressing those.”
The village’s distressed property task force is focusing on other properties of concern in Springville and Krebs said that the issue of distressed properties is being taken seriously, by village officials.
“The demolition of this hotel, while it’s sad, is progress,” the mayor said. “We are working to step up code enforcement, through targeting properties.”