ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — A front door standing ajar and piles of splintered wood and rubble are all that remain of a once historic downtown block.
On Tuesday, the city leveled three buildings in the 100 block of North Harrison Street. Since 2013, seven structures, including a former gas station and dry cleaning business, have been demolished for safety reasons.
"This makes me sick," said Jack Woods, mayor of Alexandria. "This was an icon of our city. We all have memories there. It is really depressing it had to come down."
Built in the late 1800s, the buildings were torn down after they started to show signs of decay that threatened public safety, Woods said. Prior to the demolition, barricades surrounded nearby sidewalks to prevent injury to pedestrians from falling bricks. The back portion of at least one of the buildings had also begun to bulge.
Woods said other downtown buildings need repair and may have similar fates if not properly maintained.
"There is a life to bricks and mortar and after 100 to 118 years, they just turn to dust," he said. "We have to do what we can to save them."
The demolition was paid for by the city from funds originally earmarked to tear down the former Willows Nursing Home on Indiana 9. Woods said the city had hoped to bring a Cobblestone Hotel to the area, but they are no longer in discussions with the chain.
"We are in contact with others," he said. "We don't ever give up."
The city discussed demolition of the buildings for several months, but after receiving an asbestos report on June 25, officials contacted construction crews to remove the asbestos and begin work on July 1.
Cathy McPhearson, owner of Cathy's Cupboard, 111 W. Church St., said her sister, who owns the building where her business was located, was notified on Monday the adjacent buildings would be torn down the next day.