Top 3 floors of Essex House to come down; may take 3 weeks

Mutil-story section of building collapsed on Thursday

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Holyoke Mayor and City officials met Friday afternoon to determine how to move forward with demolishing the old Essex House Hotel building that partially collapsed.

The Mayor Alex Morse met with the building inspectors and crews on Friday, trying to decide how and when the unstable building can be torn down. A big part of the old Essex House Hotel at 400 High Street collapsed on Thursday. It’s still standing now but emergency crews know they don’t have a lot of time.

The multi-story building built in the 1880’s partially collapsed around 11:45 Thursday morning. No one was hurt but now the city needs a contractor in.

Mayor Morse said this all could have been avoided if the process to demolish the building started sooner, for which he blames the City Council for delaying the approval of funds and not listening to firefighters and the building inspector suggestions.

The collapsed side of the Essex house, as seen from High Street.
The collapsed side of the Essex house, as seen from High Street. Click Here to see more photos>>

However, now the Mayor is focused on getting the building demolished in a timely fashion. “It looks like our priority at this point is to get the top three stories down so there are five stories that will make it safe enough for the businesses and the tenants to come back that will take three to five weeks. Anything the city can do to move that along and make it quicker we’re going to do.”

Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond told 22News there are approximately 35 buildings with structural issues that could interfere with firefighting operations. All of those buildings have red X’s on them, just like the old Essex House.

The Mayor said it was going to be around 1.4 million project to raise the building but now there will be incurred costs from damage done to businesses surrounding it that the contractor must factor.

Chief Pond said there are other buildings in the area that are being noted and assessed as having structural issues. “Process of updating that book Its no longer going to be in a book its going to be a computer program we can access via cell phone or internet connection.”

One and a half times the height, that’s the fall radius that firefighters keep in mind when there’s a potential for a building collapse and why the area has been cleared.

Nine families are being put up in a nearby hotel with the assistance of the American Red Cross, and three businesses have been affected including Salsarengue, San Juan Bakery, and the beauty salon which the occupants had already been moved for demolition.

The Jose Bou, the owner of Salsarengue, told 22News its unfortunate nothing was done sooner to prevent it from happening but he hopes to keep his business in the city. “Holyoke has been a great place I know many people don’t think so and I want to stay here as long as I can but If I can’t I’ll have to retire so I’ll retire.”

Mayor Morse visited with surrounding businesses on Friday to remind them that the city is hoping to help.

The street closures are also expected to be in place during that three week period. High Street is still blocked off from Essex to Appleton. You may hit a road block on Cabot but you can still get around to Essex Street if you need to.

Equipment for demolition is expected to arrive on Saturday. 22News will keep you informed on-air and with the latest.

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