“I will definitely not forget this day,” said Braydan Peak. He and mom Sheryl watched from an office window at First United Methodist Church as workers from Stone Sand Co. gingerly demolished Great Bend’s old opera house at the intersection of Williams and Forest streets. As they watched, the history of the day was not lost on either of them.
Early Tuesday morning, dirt was spread at least two feet thick on top of the pavement surrounding the building in order to protect it from falling debris. Then, the excavator operator started on the corner where the exterior wall began to crumble in December, 2013, and worked it’s way around the back of the building.
Employees of local businesses, shoppers and other interested bystanders looked on from across the street as blue sky became increasingly visible where roof and west wall crumbled, until the dust from the demolition became uncomfortably thick.
Matt Aycock, minister of congregational care at FUMC, texted the Peaks that morning. Brayden homeschools, so the two used the experience as a field trip. The 13-year old video taped parts of the demolition with his cellular phone. When the top corner of the back wall loosened and tumbled three stories to the ground, the shaking the ground hard enough to feel it in the church.
By 2 p.m., as the siding on the east side of the building was peeled away, old signage indicating a grocery store once stood on the corner quickly vanished. Recollections of other businesses were on the tongues of people watching from around the corner as the middle of the building was exposed. Steinerts furniture had been there for years. And most recently, Euphoria Dance Studio, which was forced to relocate to a temporary location at the Elks Lodge a few blocks away when the city orange-tagged the building in December.
“In a way, it’s kind of sad to see the building go,” Sheryl Peak said. “But then again, you realize it’s just a building, and it will be exciting to see what happens to that space next.”