No resolution is in sight for the charred shell of the downtown building known as “the old rope factory.”
A June 18 blaze in the building located at 207 East Oak St., at the corner of Oak Street and the alley running between Renfro and North Main Streets (known as Trinity Street), gutted the structure, took out power and phone service in the vicinity, and resulted in heat-related inuries for two firefighters.
A preliminary report issued by the Mount Airy Fire Department at the time of the fire estimated damage to be $156,000 with $126,000 of that total being for the structure and $30,000 for the contents of the building.
The cause of the accident was listed as “Accidental—Electrical” in that preliminary report. According to Mount Airy Fire Department Chief Zane Poindexter, the final ruling by the state fire marshal was also accidental-electrical.
Since the June fire, the west-bound lane of Oak Street outside the charred building has been closed to traffic by barricades in the street, resulting in Oak Street traffic in both directions sharing one lane.
Poindexter said that what happens at the location is not under the jurisdiction of the fire department nor the city fire marshal. “We haven’t had any contact after the fire was out,” he said, adding that city codes enforcement would handle matters regarding the condition of the building.
Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson, who has been overseeing code violations in the absence of an official dedicated to that job, said, “We have had no complaints.”
Watson explained that code enforcement was largely complaint-driven, but he had spoken to the owners of the building, and said, “They are taking steps to rectify the situation. For any more information, I would have to refer you to the property owners.”
Ben Webb, one of the owners of the building, said in September, “We’re trying to bring the building back, but it’s looking like we may have to tear it down.”
Webb was unable to discuss the matter further, and has since been unavailable for comment.
Building co-owner Tom Webb initially said that he would not speak to the Mount Airy News, but then did say in September it was looking as if the building would have to be torn down.
According to Webb, they were close to finalizing the process for securing historic status for the building when it burned. Since the process was not complete, the building would have to be brought back to the exact condition it was in before the fire to receive a 20-percent historic tax credit, which he said wasn’t worth the cost of rebuilding.
Webb then said he would make no further comment.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.