The Great Bend City Council Monday night approved the hiring of Nelson Stone to demolish the historic old opera house at the corner of Forest and Williams in downtown Great Bend.
It had been declared unfit for use since part of its exterior collapsed last December. But, the building has been deteriorating for years.
It is also known as the Pitcock building since it is owned by a Hays couple, David and Barbara Pitcock. The city has gone round and round with the Pitcocks in an effort to either have the structure renovated or razed.
However, despite city-issued ultimatums, nothing was done. Sadly, after a fight that lasted about two years, the city voted to have the building razed.
There have been no shortage of headlines about the opera house and its pending fate. However, once the city approved a contract for its demolition, voices are screaming they think it should have been saved.
A sampling of comments on the Tribune’s Facebook page include:
• “IF the City of Great Bend had not insisted upon tearing down the south portion of the structure a few years ago, thus leaving a NON-SUPPORTING wall exposed to the elements, this story would be quite different. IF the City of Great Bend had bothered to look into how the building was originally configured, this story would be quite different. Instead, another historic property will be demolished and more of Great Bend’s history will be rubble. There is no excuse for willful ignorance.”
• “Wow, & the city wonders why tourism is down & why citizens go elsewhere. Just take our history now too!!”
There were also postings that were rather vulgar in nature which will not be repeated here.
This issue has dragged on for two years. It has been in the news regularly for the past 10 months.
Now, all of a sudden people are protesting? Really?
This is private property owned by private individuals. Unfortunately, these individuals have opted to allow this piece of history to fall to ruin.
The city neither has the right nor the resources to force a renovation. But, it is stuck with having to clean up the mess.
Yes, it is sad the building is going to be torn down. But, as we’ve seen with other old structures, retrofitting them for modern use is costly and impractical.
The answer to this problem was to renovate the opera house years ago before it got to this point. But, that window has long since been closed.
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