Since the 1930s, the two-story building has stood on West Erwin against the effects of time and weather, but with the first swat of a large bucket on a heavy piece of machinery this week, the walls began to fall to make way for much-needed downtown Tyler parking.
Built in 1932 to house Wheeler Memorial Hospital during a time before East Texas Medical Center and Trinity Mother Frances, the hospital served Tyler with a 19-bed facility, according to records from the Smith County Historical Society.
The hospital only was open a few years before it shut down, and the building remained vacant until an economic boom in the 1950s, when it was remodeled for individual office spaces.
It is unclear when the last tenant moved out, but the owners of the Tyler Morning Telegraph bought the building and have used it as meeting rooms and then later for storage over the past decade.
Publisher Nelson Clyde IV stood in the rear of the building Monday looking up at the huge hole in the old building and said it was in the name of progress.
Clyde said renovating the building at one time was a consideration.
“Our architects spent about seven and a half minutes in it before they told us to abandon ship and abandon any plans to try to modify it for use,” he said.
Clyde said the new parking area will be leased by the People’s Petroleum Building with 50 parking spots.
This is going to be a nice improvement to the neighborhood, because this building has been unused for a really long time and has been an eyesore,” he said.
Enter Tyler Demolition Inc. and the crew of Breck Watson and the company’s heavy machinery.
Watson said he believed the project would take about a week to complete.
“In layman’s terms we’re going to wad it up and haul it off,” Watson said.
Watson explained that the demolition of a building began with sizing up the structure and then salvaging anything out of the building that might be valuable.
Several large-sized doors and windows along with some lumber were salvaged to be re purposed.
Cracking a smile, Clyde said a spook alert might be needed for downtown, because there had been reports the old building was haunted.
Over the past several years, workers have talked about seeing and hearing strange things within the walls of the building.
“They may be flying around downtown here for a few days looking for a new place to roost,” he said. “You never know what these guys with the big rigs are going to chase out of the walls and cracks of this old place, so I guess we better have a spook alert.”