Historic building in Van Wert partially collapses

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VAN WERT, Ohio (WANE) – Part of a historic building in Van Wert is gone after collapsing early Sunday morning. A large section of the Home Guards Temple building roof caved in and parts of a brick wall on the top floor fell to the street.

Located at the corner of Main Street and Market Street and built in 1905, it was originally the fraternal headquarters of a life insurance organization called the Home Guards of America.

“It was a grand building in it’s time,” said Seth Baker, executive director of the Van Wert Community Foundation. “It had a ballroom on the top floor, a basketball court, and was just kind of a playhouse area. It was then a business location for different small businesses. Then it was converted into a factory that made FAA jackets that are still locally made here in Van Wert. So it’s important to our community.”

Sunday morning around 2 a.m. the outer wall of the top floor collapsed, with the bricks falling to the street below. Van Wert officials don’t know what caused the collapse, but said the building has been deteriorating for a long while now.

The Land Bank acquired the building in December of 2019 with intents of addressing safety issues and determining if the building could be revitalized.

But ultimately, the building will be taken down. Van Wert Area Economic Development Executive Director Stacy Adam said they have applied for an EPA Multi-Purpose Brownfield’s Grant to help demolish the building. She explained that the building has long posed a safety hazard to the community, with potential contamination and a deteriorating structure that was prime for collapses.

“We think based on the assessment that was just completed that the building needs to come down,” she said.

Baker said it would cost $15 million to fully restore the building.

“Clearly if resources were not a problem, people would want to see it restored,” he said. “We know it’s going to cost about 1$5 million to take it back to what it was. We don’t necessarily believe that’s the best use for community resources. We understand that the best option at this point is removal of the building and I’m at peace with that.”

The officials have been in discussion with an engineer and contractors to plan for targeted demolitions for the time being, in which they’ll urgently remove the parts of the building that pose the most immediate and dangerous threat to the community. In the meantime, they have blocked off the building and ask the community to keep their distance from it.

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