A construction worker looked on

A construction worker looked on Saturday as the G.C. Murphy building in downtown Blairsville came down piece by piece. 

BLAIRSVILLE — Demolition contractors leveled most of the long-vacant G.C. Murphy Co. building at East Market and South Stewart streets during the weekend.

Workers are now preparing for the tedious work of separating the ruins and hauling the debris to a landfill.

The effort drew a crowd of spectators to the area to snap photos and roll video of the equipment operators from Ligonier Construction Co. knocking down the heavy block walls of the three-story building.

South Stewart Street had been fenced off the last few weeks while workers removed window glass and secured any asbestos or other hazardous materials in the building.

Precautions during the preparation phase included lining the roof of the adjacent building with plywood, tires and insulation to shield against stray blocks during the teardown. The protective materials came into play as some rubble fell onto the building and caused some external damage to the slate roof of the building housing Market Street Pastries.

A contractor called it minimal damage.

Nothing went through the roof, and the business was left in condition to operate without interruption, said Bryan Berkebile, operations manager at Ligonier Construction.

“We demoed about 80 to 90 percent of the building,” Berkebile said. “I think everyone, overall, was very pleased. Our ultimate goal was to have no damage (away from the Murphy building). Except for that, we could not have asked for a better outcome.”

But operators of Market Street Pastries posted in social media that the building sustained interior damage at midweek then was further damaged Saturday.

“We are very sad to report that damage occurred today to the interior of our building. We must therefore close our shop until a point in this project when there is no risk of damage or injury,” the store’s Facebook page indicated in a status posted on Wednesday.

On Saturday, Market Street Pastries’ page called it “a very trying and emotionally charged day for us as we experienced damage to our building during demolition of the building next door to us, in addition to that sustained earlier this week.

“Just how extensive is the damage? (We can’t go inside yet) — how long must we be closed before repairs and cleanup are complete?” the status read.

Berkebile said the building was left secured when demolition was finished Saturday.

“There is no reason they cannot be open,” he said this morning.

Under a contract with Blairsville Borough, the company has a mid-August deadline to leave the lot landscaped and planted as a green area. One of the borough’s grant sources requires the site to stay green for several years, as a condition for providing some of the funding.

“Between now and then, we’ll be working on the restoration of the property. We have a lot to haul to the landfill, and a lot to separate.”

Ligonier Construction is no stranger to work on the downtown Blairsville streetscape. The company held the contract to demolish and leave a small, green parklet in place of the Walker Building a few blocks away in early 2018.