Veterans memorial proposed at Longhorn sitePlan would include demolition of city’s oldest surviving building
By: Chris Huber, The Daily Republic
Mitchell’s oldest building could be torn down to make way for a veterans memorial.
According to VFW Post Commander Pat Ziegler, the post is considering obtaining the property and converting it into a Veterans Memorial Park as a joint project between the VFW and American Legion Post 18.
“The corner of First and Main is the entrance to our downtown,” Ziegler said. “I think it would be great to have something attractive happening on that corner rather than another empty lot.”
Before the VFW moves ahead with the project, it wants to investigate what damage might be done to its own building by bringing down the adjacent Longhorn Bar building.
“We haven’t had any engineers to confirm it, but I think we share a common wall with the Longhorn,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler said he was approached by the owner of the building, Jason Bates, and offered a chance to buy the building for a dollar.
“I would get rid of it just to take the headache away from me,” Bates said.
Bates questioned whether the city will grant a long enough extension for the VFW to come up with funding for the project. The city has given Bates until Monday to provide a plan for demolition or reconstruction of the building, which has been in a precarious state since an interior wall collapsed in November. Bates has since moved the bar business to another building across the street.
City Public Works Director Tim McGannon said he will only negotiate with the owner of the building.
“Right now, the VFW isn’t the owner, so I can’t really talk with them about the building,” he said.
McGannon said he had an architect look at the two buildings, and he wasn’t convinced the two share a common wall.
“It’s up the owner to have an architect come in and prove that this building is safe,” McGannon said, speaking of the potential effect of a Longhorn demolition on the VFW building.
If the safety of the VFW building is not assured, the wall between the two businesses might have to be taken down and reconstructed.
The building was closed in November after part of the bar was lifted and a piece of an interior wall fell down. Since then, there have been blockades in place to keep pedestrians away from the structure.
The building was constructed in 1879 and, at 133 years old, is believed to be the city’s oldest surviving structure.
Ziegler said the VFW’s top priority is to make sure its current building is safe before taking on other projects. Aside from the possibly shared wall, Zeigler said the VFW’s roof may need to be fixed, and the basement might need reinforcing.
He estimates costs for those repairs could be upwards of $100,000.
“There are a lot of questions to figure out before we know what we are going to do, but it is an idea we have,” he said. “If a big pile of money fell in our laps as a donation, that would surely help a lot.”
If the VFW does obtain the property and assembles the funding to go ahead with the veterans park, Ziegler said the park would likely include a listing of veterans’ names from the entirety of Davison County, plus a patriotic mural and flags. Concept drawings created by Ziegler also include a gazebo and a green space.
Members of the VFW, the American Legion and Mitchell Main Street and Beyond met last week to talk about the proposed park and possible funding options.
“In our researching for grant money, we have found that there are many opportunities to apply for grants centered around housing,” Ziegler said.
Though the Longhorn looks like a long, continuous building stretching back to an alley to the west, it is actually two adjoined structures — the original structure facing Main Street, and a later addition on the back (west) side. Apparently, the western part of the structure is in better shape.
Renovating that part of the structure into apartments may be one option to raise grant money for the project, Ziegler said.
“We looked into a lot of grants, but the problem with those is that they take a minimum of nine months to know if you have even got it,” he said.