Belvedere Hotel demolition in Oklahoma Borough nears completion |
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Mary Ann Thomas

The Belvedere Hotel demolition along Route 66 in Oklahoma Borough could be completed next week, according to Lee Schumaker, borough code enforcement officer and the demolition project coordinator.

Orr Avenue has been closed between Hancock Avenue and Route 66, which is the project’s staging area. It’s expected to reopen sometime next week.

The estimated 11,000 motorists who travel Route 66 daily have not been impacted.

Eveready Contracting LLC of Washington Township has been demolishing and hauling away the charred remains of the 115-year-old hotel in sealed Dumpsters since Oct. 1.

Asbestos was believed to be present at the site. As a result, the state Department of Environmental Protection declared the hotel ruins as “hazardous waste,” which requires special handling and disposal.

A July 24 blaze destroyed the abandoned wooden, Swiss chalet-inspired hotel that was starting to lean toward Route 66 before the fire.

On Wednesday, after the debris was removed, crews worked on restoring the site, hauling in dirt to pile about 8 feet high against one of the stone walls behind the hotel. The dirt was added to further stabilize the hillside, Schumaker said.

Westmoreland County’s Redevelopment Authority is in charge of spearheading the cleanup with assistance from the state Department of Environmental Protection, PennDOT and the borough.

After the fire, Oklahoma Borough declared an emergency to take down the hotel ruins, just feet away from Route 66 and Orr Avenue. Westmoreland County and its redevelopment authority initially earmarked $75,000 for the project, while the borough pitched in $10,000.

However, costs were higher than anticipated, causing the demolition to be delayed from early September.

Jason Rigone, director of the Westmoreland County Department of Planning and Development, declined to release the reason for the cost increase. The most important issue was to rebid the job and move quickly, Rigone said at the time.

The hotel was built in 1905 by Joseph Gianini, who was born in Switzerland in 1852, emigrated to the United States and became an engineer-builder.

The Belvedere was nicknamed the “Tin Hut” for the stamped tin used in its ceiling and some first-floor walls. The hotel’s name in Italian means “beautiful view.”

The tin tiles survived the fire but could not be salvaged as all the debris was considered to be contaminated with asbestos, Schumaker said.

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