The teardown of the source for a century’s worth of history and two years of disrepair and squabbling in Mitchell got underway on Wednesday morning.

Demolition of the 301 N. Main St. building in Mitchell started around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, tearing away bricks from the top portion of the structure, which dates back to 1887. Also coming down is the 305 N. Main St. location, which has housed Moody’s Western Wear for nearly 20 years. Roughly three hours into the demolition, which is being led by Mitchell-based Vander Pol Dragline, nearly half of Moody’s former building was taken down.

Local resident Ron Fuchs was watching Wednesday, reminiscing about the days when he used to browse at jewelry inside the former Moody’s building.

“I remember there being a number of clothing stores here, a drug store and the jewelry store,” Fuchs said. “It’s sad to see things go. All of the work people put into their businesses inside this building and the memories made here is all gone now.”

Demolition crews bring down a portion of the former Moody's Western Wear building at 305 North Main Street on Wednesday morning in downtown Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Demolition crews bring down a portion of the former Moody's Western Wear building at 305 North Main Street on Wednesday morning in downtown Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Kim Cross was one of those business owners who had a storefront inside the Third Avenue and Main Street building for the past 13 years. Cross, who operated his western wear business, Merchandise Outlet Store, said there were plenty of emotions he felt while watching the construction crew members strip away the bricks off the facade of the building.

“It’s just crazy to think of all the memories I had in that store and building,” Cross said. “I would often hear customers come in and talk about how this corner block of Main Street was always the busiest, most happening area in downtown Mitchell.”

Cross’ business is now located across the street at 302 N. Main St. When the city of Mitchell reached an agreement with David Finnell, the former building owner, Cross was forced to seek a new location.

The city has been in a battle with Finnell for the last two years, after the corroding southwest corner of the building left a large hole in its side, causing public safety hazards. Roofing and masonry issues also plagued the aging building. Since August 2017, Third Avenue has been closed between Rowley and Main streets due to a gaping hole.

Originally built in 1887 as the Champney building, the three-story building at 301 N. Main St. has been one of the city’s oldest structures, shortly following the community’s incorporation in 1883. When it was built, the Masonic Lodge was located on the third floor, and workers successfully removed the Masonic emblems and facade at the top of the building on Wednesday. The second and third floors were later converted to apartments before closing in 1980, while the first floor housed various businesses over the last 100-plus years, including Saterlie Drug and the Mitchell Clothing Company.

For Mark Vaux, executive director of the Mitchell Area Development Corporation, the demolition of the building has evoked mixed emotions.

“While I’m certainly looking forward to see progress being made and being able to get this issue taken care of, at the same time we need to be respectful and mindful of all the people and businesses that poured their heart and souls into that building,” Vaux said. “It’s a bittersweet day.”

Looking toward the future, Vaux said he is eager to explore the redevelopment opportunities on the corner lot. As for the timeline of the demolition project, Vaux said Vander Pol Dragline will be continuing the take down of the buildings through the entire week, and the street closure on Main Street is expected to continue through the middle of next week, he said.

“We’re anticipating the entire demolition project to be done by the end of this month,” Vaux said.