A demolition date was not specified, because it’s not known how long the salvage process will take.
Erected in 1889 as part of what became known as the Gateway to Anniston, the structure at one time was more ornate than it appears now. It sits alone in what had been designated as a Historic District, a district now cleared of other buildings to make way for Anniston’s new judicial complex.
The Anniston Historical Preservation Commission fought to save the land company building and did manage to persuade the city to tweak the design plans to allow for its continued existence. However, once the demolition began on the buildings around it, part of an outer wall on the land company building collapsed.
That was the beginning of the end. A city inspector cited the building as a nuisance and gave the city 45 days to fix the problem. The inspector recommended demolition.
The councilmen Wednesday gave the city manager the approval to comply with that order, but only after inviting at least two experts to evaluate the building’s architectural artifacts and make a recommendation on salvaging them.
All the artifacts will be photographed before demolition so the city will have a record of the building’s history and importance. The councilmen said they don’t know how long the process will take, and therefore don’t know when the building will come down.
The city will also erect a monument using the salvaged artifacts on the footprint of the original building, educating the public about its historical significance to the city.
Delaying the demolition to do the salvage work could be an expensive proposition for the city, said Mayor Gene Robinson. The city had equipment delivered to do the demolition and that is costing the city about $2,400 a day, he said. In addition, if the work is not completed by the time work is set to start on the judicial complex, the city will have to pay for protective measures for the construction workers at the site, Robinson said.
“We need to get these expert people in here quick and get it done quick,” Robinson said.
But the other councilmen saw the extra costs being incurred as the price of preserving what little of the building’s history they can.
Councilman Jay Jenkins said the building has been the subject of misstep after misstep, but now the city has to do the best it can do.
“I see the urgency. I understand the dollars,” Jenkins said. “It’s time to pony up.”
Jenkins said he was willing to face constituent disapproval to do what he felt was best.
Councilman Herbert Palmore agreed.
“We have to go through due diligence just to make sure everybody is treated fairly and that we have taken care of the history of the city,” Palmore said.
Councilman David Dawson said after the vote that he hoped the loss of the building would create renewed interest in the city’s history and historical structures. He suggested the commission create an inventory of buildings that are still salvageable.
The chairwoman of the commission, Joan McKinney, said she felt like the council listened to the commission members for the first time.
“We now have been recognized as an organization,” McKinney said. “We have good commissioners who are now excited about taking on additional work and projects. We’re probably going to be much better for all of this.”
Councilman Ben Little did not attend the meeting because of a commitment at his church, he said.
Star staff writer Laura Camper 256-235-3545.