Bricks tumble from downtown Monessen building
By Chris Buckley
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 12:51 a.m.
Frank Pager was asleep in his second-story apartment when he was awakened around 5:30 a.m. to the sound of bricks falling from a 535 Donner Ave., Monessen, building
He heard bricks falling again at 7 a.m.
“It sounded like the whole roof was coming down, that's how loud it was,” said Pager, who lives above Koury's Buy-Sell-Trade at 541 Donner Ave.
“I looked out the window and saw a big pile of bricks. Then I saw a guy on his cell phone calling 911.”
That man, Sam Abbott, was crossing Donner at Sixth Street, headed to his office at First Federal Savings Bank.
“I heard the rumble, and when I looked up, I saw it hit the ground,” said Abbott, who heads up the bank's Internet technology department.
Abbott said few others were on the street at the time. He saw a man in a white Jeep stop to examine his vehicle. The vehicle was not hit by falling debris, so the man drove off. Two women were walking on Donner by The Torn Page, a half block away.
“It was fortunate it happened when it did,” Abbott said. “An hour or two later and there definitely would have been people on the street.”
Mayor Mary Jo Smith said the building is owned by the city redevelopment authority. Monessen took over the building, which had various owners over the years. None had improved the structure.
John Harhai, Redevelopment Authority of the City of Monessen executive director, said that in recent years, the city has acquired a number of dilapidated properties that had kept changing hands.
The damaged building originally was home to Monessen Plumbing, Harhai said.
Smith was uncertain of the building's age, but some neighboring structures on the same side of Donner bear dates ranging from 1900 to 1924.
Harhai estimated the building was constructed sometime from 1915 through 1920.
City fire and street crews, along with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, blocked off Donner between Fifth and Sixth streets. PennDOT agreed to allow two-way traffic on Schoonmaker Avenue from Fifth to 12th streets.
Smith said that was done so tractor-trailers could pass through the downtown area.
City engineers checked on stability of the bulk of the building. They determined most of the damage to the exterior structure was contained to the facade.
For about an hour – as a safety measure – West Penn Power shut off electricity to businesses in a one-block area on the side of Donner in which the building is located.
In that time, crews removed additional bricks on the facade and front section near the roof that were in danger of falling.
The 500 and 600 blocks of Donner were closed from around 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Pasta Shoppe, located in that section of Donner, was without power as lunch approached.
“January and February are always tough,” Pasta Shoppe employee Susie Turkovich said. “We're functioning, but this doesn't help.”
Rita Bercik, who lives above The Pasta Shoppe, said she often hears bricks falling from buildings in that block.
“It's just a matter of time before someone gets hurt,” Bercik said. “I'm just glad no one got hurt this time.”
Municipal Fire Chief Delmar Hepple was among those who used a fire department bucket truck to access the roof. Hepple said he saw separation between the facade and the rest of the building. Crews removed unstable bricks.
“We took it to a point where I could no longer see daylight,” Hepple said. “The rest up there is pretty solid. If I had to use any force to pry it off, I left it.”
City workers put a tarp on the roof to keep out moisture.
Smith said the engineers were inspecting the building to determine whether it can be repaired.
“If they determine it needs demolished, then we'll look for funds,” Smith said.
“We're talking a pretty penny to demolish it. If it just needs stabilized, we'll do so.
“We have a lot of beautiful architecture in this town. We'd like to save what we can.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Belle Vernon students show grasp of history
- Brownsville alum to discuss Battle of Gettysburg’s impact on townspeople
- New Eagle dance on as scheduled; ‘Porky’ Chedwick tribute in works
- Yough Middle School Science Fair continues to grow after 9 years
- Charges mounting in Monessen drug case
- St. Molokai parish ruling imminent
- Cal U offers military personnel, families discounted online rates
- Ailing Monongahela girl’s medical info missing from hospital
- Washington Co. needs poll workers
- Pa. health secretary to tour SPHS facility