By MARY RAINWATER
The roof of the historic Ivanhoe building in downtown Palestine partially collapsed late Tuesday morning leaving some downtown merchants without power and closing several downtown streets.
“I was across the street serving at the Stockpot when it happened,” local resident Carol Metteauer said. “(It) sounded like a bomb went off! (I) saw all the dust and debris floating in the air.”
The building is located at East Oak and Houston streets.
While the cause of the collapse was unknown, Palestine Fire Marshal Alan Wilcher speculated that heavy rains early Tuesday morning, compounded by a clogged roof drain, was the likely cause of the collapse.
“We received the call right about noon,” Wilcher said. “It looks as though the roof fell into the (third) floor and collapsed into the (second) floor on the building’s Houston Street side.”
The first floor of the building was known to be leased for office space, but no one was in the Ivanhoe building at the time of the collapse.
“There was some damage done to the building next door from falling debris,” Wilcher said. “That damage was minimal, considering.”
The collapse also caused a power outage at the building and in the area surrounding it, but Oncor was on the scene late Tuesday afternoon restoring power to those businesses.
“We were extremely fortunate that no further damage was done,” Wilcher said. “If this had happened a couple of weeks later, during the festival, it could have been a lot worse.”
Streets surrounding the building, including Houston Street and parts of Avenue A, Crawford Street, Main Street, East Oak Street and Sycamore Street, will remain closed until the building is deemed safe and the debris is cleared away.
According to Wilcher, a structural engineering crew was set to arrive on the scene Tuesday evening to determine if the building was structurally sound. If s, personnel would be able to enter the structure and determine the exact cause.
The Ivanhoe building was built in 1913 as the organizational meeting for the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization. It has hosted several businesses over the years including a furniture manufacturing company, a garment factory, a food pantry and a computer repair shop.
In recent years the bottom floor has been used for commercial office space — while the top two floors have remained vacant.
The owner of the building, Kyle Bostic of Montalba, was notified about the incident. Bostic purchased the three-story building in 2006, with plans to turn the top two floors into apartment space.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org