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Contractor making short work of City Hall

By Jefferson Weaver

jeffersonweaver@nrcolumbus.com

 

A Wilmington contractor could have the Whiteville City Hall building demolished by the end of the week.

Four Seasons Demolition was awarded the contract to demolish the circa 1938 building last fall. The former U.S. Post Office was closed in 2014 due to mold and asbestos.

The low bid of $126,680 includes disposal of the debris and site preparation. The city’s aggressive plan for the new $2.5 million city hall calls for construction to begin this spring.

Demolition crews and city staff have worked diligently to save a number of architectural features from the old structure, officially called the Horace Whitley Municipal Building. The iconic “Federal Eagle” over the front door was saved, along with some of the copper roof. 

One of the biggest challenges was the massive steel vault door that dated from the building’s original construction. 

The Whiteville structure was of a style typical with Works Progress Administration (WPA) Post Offices in the 1930s, and like many of those buildings, featured a concrete and steel vault. The size of the vault meant that part of the building had to be constructed around the walk-in safe. On Wednesday, crews used a pair of trackhoes to gently remove the door, then tear the 14-by-14 foot concrete box from the building. The vault remained intact even as the machinery moved it across the lawn of the City Hall.

Officials hope to preserve the door, the eagle and other features in the new municipal building.

Four Seasons crews also removed the burned remains of a 1920s era home beside the City Hall. The city purchased the property in 2010 for possible future expansion, and recently completed code enforcement against an adjoining home.

Souvenir hunters began rummaging through the debris of the building last week, when the heavy equipment made short work of the rear wing and loading dock of the building. Hundreds of unissued Whiteville municipal tags dated 1981 were scattered throughout the debris, some still wrapped in their original brown paper. Blank water and sewer billing bills from the 1970s burst from one of the unused storage rooms on the second floor as the track hoe smashed through the brick walls Monday.

City Manager Darren Currie said that staff had removed all sensitive documents from the building before the heavy equipment was deployed to ensure no personal financial information ended up in the wrong hands.

“The documents that we could destroy in accordance with the rules from the State Archives were properly disposed of,” he said. 

“The others will be preserved as the law requires. The things that were of historical significance had already been removed. There were dozens of boxes of old paperwork in there. It’s all going to the landfill anyway, and it was safer this way.”

The Oakley Architectural Company is the lead contractor on the demolition, cleanup, design and construction of the new project.

Stuart Rogers