A historic building in downtown Willow Springs collapsed at approximately 7:45 Monday morning. A neighboring business owner, Michael Smith, of Coulter Heating and Cooling, was the first person to notice the collapse and called it in to emergency services. Formerly the Curtis Department Store building, the vacant structure in the 200 block of East Main is now owned by Blake Browne. The building has been vacant for several years, and Browne said he had eventual plans to tear it down. He said he knew the building was in its terminal stages and could not be restored, but had no reason to believe it was structurally unsound.
"At the end of the day, it's a mess to be cleaned up," Browne said.
City Administrator Beverly Hicks was also surprised to learn the building collapsed. She said this building was not on the City's radar of problem properties, though she knew of Browne's plans to demolish it soon.
The City's main concern is public safety. The building to the east, owned by Gary Bright, is occupied by apartment tenants. The tenants' vehicle was parked in front of the building and was covered when the building's awning collapsed, but incredibly, the vehicle did not sustain any major damage. The occupants were even surprised when City officials knocked on their door early this morning, asking them to evacuate. No injuries have been reported among first responders or citizens. The shared wall between the two buildings remains a safety concern.
The west side wall touches The Stitchin' Post, owned and operated by Joan and Grover Pierce. That is not a shared wall, but the proximity of the buildings does present a safety concern, Hicks said. The entire south side of the street will remain without utility connections for the day. The north side of the street is unaffected. In the interest of public safety, Assistant Fire Chief Vance Farmer asked that power and gas be cut to the area as soon as he arrived on scene.
Out of concern for public safety, Main Street from Harris to Walnut will remain closed throughout the day. Assistant Police Chief Wes Ellison asked citizens to keep off the sidewalks in the area. The alleyway behind the building will also remain closed. The concrete back wall was still standing as of 10:00 a.m. Monday, but there was some concern it could fall and cause injury or property damage as well.
The cause of the collapse remains unknown, but is presumed to be connected to the building's age and the recent severe winter weather.