Constructed in 1867, the building at the corner of Third and Ferrel streets in downtown Platte City at one time housed two churches and a Masonic Lodge.
However, its future may be in peril after half of the building’s north wall collapsed late Wednesday. No one was inside and no surrounding property was damaged, according to City Administrator D.J. Gehrt.
Several days of heavy rain probably overloaded the roof, causing some columns of the interior upper floors to collapse into the bottom level within the foundation, according to Gehrt and the building’s co-owner.
On Friday, the building’s owner and his civil engineer will examine the two-story structure to see if it is salvageable. The city decided Thursday afternoon that the building, which faces west about a block south of the Platte County Courthouse, wasn’t sound enough and should be demolished. But officials were willing to work with the owners.
“We would like to save it,” said Jeff Bash, who along with his son purchased the property and the adjacent parsonage house more than a year ago. “It’s been around this area forever. It is a pillar in the community.”
The collapse was reported about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, startling nearby residents and local shop owners. A gaping hole was left in the north side of the building.
“It caught everybody by surprise,” said Olin Miller, a local historian who was working that evening at his downtown insurance office.
The building had not been occupied in more than 20 years after the Masonic Lodge relocated. Before that, it was rented to community groups.
Buildings constructed in the 1860s were made with soft bricks and mortar. Their structures eventually become unstable over the years, Miller said.
The church was built through an arrangement between Zerubbabel Masonic Lodge No. 191 and two churches, one Methodist and the other Presbyterian. It was to replace the church burned down during the Civil War by Union soldiers, Miller said.
The two churches held separate services on the lower level while the Masons occupied the upper floor. Repairs and renovation work were done in December 1893. New art glass windows and a ceiling paneled with walnut boards were installed.
In 1940, the Presbyterian church dissolved and gave its share of the property to the Methodist church. Platte City United Methodist Church continued to hold services there until 1976, then relocated just south of the city limits.
Bash said he hopes the building can be saved if only for its beauty and historic significance to the community.
“It’s a beautiful building. Doesn’t it just stand out and bite you?” he said.