Old American Legion building demolished

Williamstown’s modest commercial street now has one building fewer, as a demolition crew razed the structure that once housed the Williamstown American Legion on Tuesday. The College-owned building, located at 89 Spring St., was on the corner of Walden Street and Spring Street, next to the Williamstown public parking area. Currently, there are no plans to build on the lot.

The College’s decision to tear down the building resulted from the difficulties that bringing the building up to code would entail, such as the potential necessity of putting in an elevator. The effort and cost of such a project, compared with the available space in the building and lack of demand for the space, led to the ultimate choice to demolish the building. Instead of an ongoing cost of updating and upkeep, the College incurred a one-time demolition cost of approximately $20,000.

At 10:15 a.m. yesterday, the west end of the lot was a snowy scene of demolition machinery and piles of rubble as the crew began the project. Petricca Construction of Pittsfield, Mass., is overseeing the demolition and had to halt work shortly after beginning it for underground electrical lines to be disconnected. According to project manager Tom Mahar, neither the weather changes early this week nor the break for electrical work will result in setbacks.

The old American Legion building has been under College ownership since 2002, when the Legion moved its Williamstown post to Latham Street and donated the Spring Street property to the College. Subsequently, the building became home to the Record, and served as a newsroom until the Record office moved to the Paresky Center when the building opened in 2007.

Preparations for the demolition have been in the works since the beginning of February. The building was first cleared out before the removal of the roof, which took place last week. Early work also involved the safe disposal of hazardous materials, such as tiles containing asbestos, before any major demolition could begin. The College was responsible for the initial preparations, including the roof removal, before the construction company arrived to take on the project.

The crew plans to work for three days to complete the job, which includes not only tearing down the building but also clearing and paving the lot. “Once the building comes down, Petricca will work to clear the area and make sure it’s safe,” Mahar said. Walden Street is expected to remain closed for the duration of the project, requiring traffic to be rerouted through the adjacent public parking area. Members of the Williamstown Police Department were on hand Tuesday morning to alleviate any potential traffic problems.

While the area is being cleared, Petricca’s crew will sort through the debris to take recyclable materials, especially metals, to Burgess Brothers, Inc., a recycling facility located in Bennington, Vt. “We’ll recycle all we can,” Mahar said. “Petricca will try to collect a lot of the metal to take it to the facility.” The lot will then be filled in with gravel for the remainder of the winter. Shrubs and other greenery will be planted in the early spring.

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