At about 5 a.m. Wednesday, a large portion of the southwest corner of the old opera house at Williams and Forest collapsed.
The collapse left a pile of shattered bricks and other debris in the parking lot south of the historic structure at 2103 Forest and a gaping hole exposing the interior of the third and top floor.
Later in the day, Great Bend City Inspector Lee Schneider deemed the building “unsafe to occupy.” This is the first step towards condemnation, an action that would have to be taken by the City Council.
The problem is that the building houses the Euphoria Dance Centre and a private apartment. Schneider’s order means these occupants must vacate as soon as possible.
“We’ve started the process of finding somewhere else to go,” said EDC owner Lindsay Feil. Despite the setback of having to move everything, she hopes to barely miss a step.
She had plans to build a new facility in the future and this may have hastened that project.
On the positive side, there was no one in the building and no cars in the lot at the time of the incident. So, the only damage was to the building itself.
The contents of the studio and apartment were unscathed as well.
According to the Barton County Register of Deeds Office, the building is owned by David and Barbara Pitcock of Hays. Officials have had a difficult time contacting them.
It is listed for sale through Coldwell Banker Sell Real Estate.
Dating back to the 1880s, the building originally served as an opera house, said Bev Komarek of the Barton County Historical Society. Over the decades, it has also housed numerous businesses and offices.
The society has campaigned to save the building in the past.
Even if it is condemned, it doesn’t mean it will be torn down. Although likely a costly project, it could be repaired.