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Historic building faces demolition

Back taxes owed on Holyoke site

Associated Press / August 8, 2011

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HOLYOKE - It was a stagecoach stop and a speakeasy, as well as home to legal taverns of various names and even the supposed sanctuary of a ghost.

But now, the red-brick structure known as the Bud is an old building facing a possible date with a wrecking ball.

Still, the three-story building across from City Hall continues to inspire a “treasure or trash?’’ debate.

Olivia L. Mausel, chairwoman of Holyoke Historical Commission, said that she and other preservationists know they face an uphill fight to save the Bud. (She believes the name - it’s also been known as Ye Olde Bud - springs from the building’s days as a Budweiser beer distributorship.)

“We have some developers on the other end but they don’t want to deal with the back taxes. Therein lies the problem,’’ Mausel said.

She declined to identify the developers. But she said she hopes city officials bear in mind, amid the demolition talk, that a landmark’s historical value to a community cannot be replaced.

The Bud was a stagecoach stop between Boston and Albany.

It was an illegal but favorite stop of those seeking a drink of liquor when it was a speakeasy during Prohibition, she said.

The building’s first floor was built around 1865 and the rest went up in the late 1800s, Mausel said.

But the building’s problems are substantial. And if the city had $125,000 to spare, it probably would get demolished, officials said.

Along with the building’s deterioration to the point of what one official called a hazard, more than $285,000 in taxes and fees are owed going back to 1992, officials said.

City records list the owner as James C. Hendricks, of Greentown, Pa. He couldn’t be reached for comment, but has told officials in the past he was unable to pay the back taxes.

In March, former building inspector Paul Healy nailed a sign to the structure that declares it “condemned as dangerous and unsafe.’’

Part of the roof collapsed over the winter. The Fire Department is on record as having serious concerns about the structural stability of the building, according to a March 23 letter to the state Historical Commission from Deputy Administrator Alicia M. Zoeller of the city Office for Community Development.

In 2006, former fire chief David A. LaFond said the building was a hazard for firefighters.

Various city departments have pursued the back taxes and tried to get the building stabilized, or to interest a developer in revitalizing it, but without success, Zoeller’s letter says.

The building is on a demolition list. But the city doesn’t have enough federal Community Development Block Grant money to fund the razing, City Treasurer Jon D. Lumbra said.

“The building’s not worth what is owed in taxes,’’ Lumbra said.

Mausel disputes that and hopes a developer surfaces.

The Bud has twisted a colorful strand into the fabric of city history.

It would be a shame, Mausel said, to lose a building with a story that includes the Smokin’ Gun Lounge, the Carnival Night Club, and the Caribbean Restaurant, not to mention the PJ Murray Distillery, whose namesake is talked of as being the Bud’s resident ghost.