HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – An entire city block in downtown Holyoke has been evacuated, due to the collapse of a multi-story section of the former Essex House hotel.
Holyoke Fire Capt. Anthony Cerruti told 22News that they received word of the collapse at the 400 High Street hotel at around 11:45 Thursday afternoon. No one was injured, but several stories on the north side of the building came down, and a large hole along the side of the building is clearly visible. Bricks from the building tumbled down to the ground and on top of a nearby building.
Cerruti said the Essex House has been deteriorating for a long time, and that there were plans in the works to knock it down. The structure was even the subject of a protest by local residents back in September, who said that it was a public hazard.
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse told 22News that he has been advocating to get the building demolished, but that some members of the City Council had underestimated the risk of collapse.
“We had city councilors throughout this entire process discount the word of experts; the building department, the fire department, who said this would happen. It’s happened. Instead, they chose to say it wouldn’t happen and hadn’t happened in years; ‘what makes you think it’s going to happen now?’ And my job is to trust the experts. That’s what I did, that’s what the experts said happened,” Morse said.
A contractor had been hired to demolish the building in the next couple of days. The old Essex Hotel was built back in the 1800’s and firefighters said, like many buildings in the area, it was structurally unstable which is the reasoning to put a red “X” on the side so they wouldn’t enter.
Jose Bou, the owner of the nearby Salsarengue Restaurant, said that he expected that this collapse would happen, but it was still a frightening experience. “We heard the building shaking, we felt it, and the first time it wasn’t that loud, but the second time, it was really extremely loud and very hard. So we came out and we saw the building collapse,” Bou said.
Cerruti said that all of the buildings on the block (from Essex St. to Appleton St.) have had their utilities shut off, and that section of High Street will likely remain closed until the Essex House is demolished.
22News is covering the story, and will bring you the latest information as it becomes available.