Liberty city staff members were just settling into a meeting shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday when they heard what sounded like a truck crashing.
They looked outside the window and saw the Bedinger Building collapsing. It’s perhaps better known to most around town as the Ethan Allen building.
“You just saw the bricks start falling like dominoes, and as I’m pointing out there, a cloud of dust came up and it sounded like a truck ran into the building,” explained Liberty Parks and Recreation assistant director B.J. Staab, who was in Liberty City Hall when the building across the street collapsed.
The Bedinger Building, at the corner of Kansas Street and Water Street on the southeast side of the historic downtown Liberty Square, was undergoing renovations. The cause of the collapse is still under investigation.
Gene DeClue, an owner of Rock & Run, the restaurant and brewery on Kansas Street next door to the collapsed building, was inside the restaurant at the time.
“It sounded like a low freight train rumble coming through,” DeClue said. “The building filled up with dust. I ran out front and saw the brick through the front door.”
DeClue first thought scaffolding was falling so yelled to everyone to get out of the building.
“I ran in and shut all the power off in the brewery,” said DeClue.
According to local historian Christopher Harris, the structure was originally three buildings built in the 1880s. They were combined in 1966 when a furniture store moved into the location.
Liberty Mayor Lyndell Brenton did not witness the event but was on the scene soon after.
“It’s a huge loss,” Brenton said, adding that the developer had big plans for restoring the building. “There were a number of tenants who were excited about opening businesses here; now their plans are postponed or permanently altered.”
The owner of the building, Shane Griffin, had owned the site for about a year and had been planning to fill the space with new tenants. Shortly after the collapse, he focused on the most important thing. “No one was hurt. That’s all we know,” Griffin said.