Frankfort road remains closed after January fire destroys historic building

FRANKFORT, Ind. – A portion of downtown Frankfort has remained closed for weeks after a fire destroyed a historic building back in January, and it still may take some time before it's cleaned up.

"Oh it was sad, it was very sad," said longtime Frankfort resident Heath Dowd. He saw the historic building consumed in flames back in January, and immediately thought about what was burning away.

"The first thing I thought of was the mural," Dowd said.

The painted brinks that now scatter the ground once pieced together a timeline of the town’s vibrant history. Now, they paint a much different picture, one of history crumbling away.

“Every time I walk by here I’m just like man..." Dowd said with a sigh. "It’s depressing.”

“That was something that we all treasured in Frankfort," said Mayor Chris McBarnes said of the mural and the building. "So that was a real punch in the gut.”

McBarnes feels the same pain. The building was the oldest in downtown Frankfort. The January fire closed businesses and displaced renters in the apartments upstairs. Now weeks later, the debris still remains.

“We have been feverishly working," McBarnes said of the long process to get the building demolished. "We have three different building owners, so different insurance companies, different attorneys that are representing these individuals, and we have to let that bureaucratic process carry out.”

McBarnes said the city earmarks $100,000 for the demolition of dangerous buildings each year, but he hopes to use as little of that as possible.

"I want the least amount of burden put on the taxpayer, if not no burden at all,” McBarnes said.

While they decide who will pay for the demolition, potential danger from falling bricks keep the street and sidewalks closed. With no end in sight, the mayor says this long stretch is just a detour on the road to revitalizing downtown.

"When you you have something like this, it feels like you take two steps forward and five steps back," McBarnes said. "But things happen in life, instances like this happen and we have to pick ourselves up and move forward.”

As the city moves forward, residents like Dowd feel it’s important to look back and remember the past.

"It’s sad to see it go, it really is," Dowd said. "There are memories there that aren't going to be there anymore when you walk by, and I just hope they don’t disappear.”

A firefighter was injured in this fire when a floor caved in, but he has since recovered from his injuries. There is no timetable for when a demolition might take place.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.