Jefferson County Online
Tribune Printing Company Building

Tribune Building Collapses and is Partly Demolished

"The Fairfield Ledger"
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Front Page, Pages 3 and 7

Tribune building partly demolished
North wall brought down due to fears it would collapse
By Andy Hallman
Ledger news editor

Fairfield lost a piece of history Tuesday when part of the Tribune Printing Company building was demolished after it was found to be in danger of collapse.

The Jefferson County Law Center received a call about the Tribune Printing Company's potential collapse at 3:05 p.m., and dispatched officers to the building at 101 W. Briggs Ave. Upon arrival, the Fairfield Fire Department noted the outside wall on the north side of the building was leaning heavily toward the street.

Briggs Avenue from Second Street to Main Street was immediately closed to all vehicle traffic due to concerns of the building collapsing further into the street. The Tribune Printing Company building was evacuated, as were neighboring Ila's Restaurant and Revelations Café, as well as all apartments above those businesses due to reports of a gas leak coming from the printing company building.

Alliant Energy was notified of the gas leak and shut off gas to all evacuated buildings. The affected businesses were able to resume normal operations by 6 p.m.

A local excavating company, Cross Iron Excavating, tore down the compromised portion of the roof and north wall to prevent any further collapse. The company first used a track hoe to tear down the wall, and then the city brought in an endloader to push the debris off the street. Demolition ceased just after 5 p.m. and the 16 Fairfield firefighters on the scene returned to the station.

Rich Vogt, owner of Cross Iron Excavating, said he received a call from law enforcement telling him to bring a track hoe to the scene as quickly as possible. He drove a track hoe there, but realized once he arrived it was too small to knock out the wall and that he might get hurt from the falling debris. He went back to his shop to retrieve a much larger track hoe, which he used to demolish the wall.

He said he commonly uses track hoes to demolish buildings, so the experience Tuesday was nothing new for him. He was not worried about the gas from the building because he had been assured it was turned off.

According to a press release from the Jefferson County Attorney's Office, the rest of the building will be torn down as soon as the owner's insurance company can send adjustors to survey the damage.

Ross Walker owns the building and was inside it with a group of other people for two hours that afternoon. They were there cleaning in preparation to sell the building. Walker said that, in all the years he has owned the building, there were never any signs it was structurally unsound until that afternoon, when he saw the suspended ceiling had fallen down in one part of the building, and noticed cracks in the walls he had never seen before. Walker said he had no idea what could have caused the north wall to lean out toward the street.

"We had no inkling there were problems with the building until yesterday afternoon," Walker said.

Walker also noticed one of the east-facing glass doors was difficult to open because the frame had moved. He called 911 to report the building was not safe, and the Fairfield Fire Department responded to find a gas leak coming from the building.

Walker has not been able to enter the building since Tuesday afternoon. He said there are several printing presses in the building as well as some flammable materials that were used in presses decades ago.

Seeing the building torn down pulled at Walker's heartstrings because of what the business has meant to him and his family.

"The business has been in the Walker family for 99 years," he said.

The Tribune Printing Company has been in business for 167 years, making it the oldest continuously run business in Iowa.

Fairfield Police Capt. Dave Thomas said today he expects the streets around the printing company building to be closed for several days and that motorists should plan accordingly.

Before the north wall was brought down, the firefighters rolled three antique cars belonging to Walker out of the garage on the west end. One of the cars started and was driven away, while the other two were loaded on a flatbed and hauled off.

The Tribune Printing Company building turned 100 years old this year. The Tribune Printing Company called the building home from 1980 until it closed for business in June. In the 1920s, the building housed the Fairfield Motor Company, the Brown Motor Company and Easton Motor Sales. In the 1930s, Reliable Department Store and Leach Hatcheries used the space, and Benteco Supermarket moved in during the 1940s.

The 1950s saw Brainard Pontiac and Benner Food Store open up shop there, followed by Wulff's Furniture in the 1960s. Gibson's Discount Center department store and the Big 'o' Factory Outlet used the building in the 1970s before the Tribune Printing Company moved in.

Before the 1914 building, the building that stood at that location was Fairfield's Grand Opera House, built in 1890 but destroyed by an electrical fire in 1909.

Lisa Carr and Sharon Stinogel own Ila's Restaurant and were at the scene to witness the building's partial demolition. Carr said the business was not open Tuesday so there were no customers or staff inside. She learned of the potential collapse from a volunteer firefighter at her other job, and went to the scene as soon as she could. She said she feared the Tribune building's collapse would damage her building since they share a common wall.

Carr said she worried the excavator would demolish the entire building without giving her a chance to shore up the common wall.

"I thought they were going to tear the whole thing down right then," she said. "They explained to me that they were just trying to secure the building so it wouldn't fall on anybody."

Before the demolition, Stinogel let firefighers into Ila's to check for gas and to open the doors to let the gas dissipate. After the demolition, Carr and Stinogel could still smell gas, but Carr said it went away fairly quickly. Their electricity was turned back on shortly after 5 p.m. and their gas was turned on at about 6:30 p.m.


Above: A track hoe owned by Cross Iron Excavating demolishes the north wall of the Tribune Printing Company building just before 5 p.m. Tuesday in Fairfield. The building's owner, Ross Walker, was at the building from 1-3 p.m. and noticed the suspended ceiling had caved in and cracks in the walls were visible where they had never appeared before. The Fairfield Fire Department responded and discovered a natural gas leak, prompting the evacuation of nearby Ila's Restaurant and Revelations Café.

Below: A city employee uses an end loader to push the rubble off the street. The streets immediately surrounding the Tribune building, West Briggs Avenue and North Main Street, were closed Tuesday afternoon and will remain closed until further notice. For more photos of the event, see pages 3 and 7. [Photo below also by Andy Hallman.]

Photos from pages 3 and 7 below.

Fairfield firefighters were able to salvage three antique cars owned by Ross Walker and stored in the Tribune Printing Company building. Walker had two thunderbirds from the 1950s and a 1964 Mustang, which escaped the building just part of it was demolished.

The first track hoe that Rich Vogt of Cross Iron Excavating brought to the scene, seen here, proved to be too small for the job, so Vogt went back to the shop to get a bigger track hoe.


"The Fairfield Ledger"
Monday, July 14, 2014
Front Page

Tribune building collapses further
By Andy Hallman
Ledger news editor

Less than a week after its north wall was taken down, the Tribune Printing Company's east wall collapsed at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, sending bricks and other debris onto North Main Street.

A chain-link fence was erected Friday, replacing the orange plastic fence that had been installed Tuesday afternoon when the north wall was demolished. The chain-link fence captured most of the debris when the building collapsed further Sunday although some did fall outside the fence.

No damage to surrounding buildings was reported. Ila's Restaurant was advised to stay closed for business Sunday.

Fairfield streets superintendent Darrel Bisgard said today his streets crew arrived on the scene early Sunday morning and closed North Main Street between the alley south of Revelations Café and the intersection with West Briggs Avenue. They were able to open the street later in the day.

Reggie Cox of Cox Carpentry, who has helped maintain the building for several years, received a phone (sic - phone call) Sunday morning shortly after the building collapsed. He sent some of his employees to the scene to clean up the mess because he was out of town at the time.

"My son and the rest of the crew cleaned up all they could and got [the debris] behind the barrier," he said. "Part of the barrier had fallen down by Ila's Restaurant."

Cox said he believed the main reason the building collapsed when it did was because of the rain and strong winds that hit Fairfield Saturday night. The building's owner, Ross Walker, said he didn't think the weather played a major role in the collapse and that it was just a matter of time before the whole thing would fall down.

"I'm sure the storm wasn't the cause," Walker said. "It was starting to go before the storm came in. Once one joist goes down, the rest follow. They're like dominoes. Finally, the front part of the building decided to go down, too."

Walker said he is still planning to meet with his insurance adjustor either today or Tuesday, just as he had planned before the east wall collapsed Sunday.

Cox said he was in the building today removing machinery and other valuables.

"We removed some copying machines and smaller office equipment from the two floors in the back of the building," he said.

The Tribune building dates to 1914. It housed the Tribune Printing Company from 1980 until June 30, when Walker decided to close the business.

Above: The east wall of the Tribune Printing Company building collapsed early Sunday morning. The collapse sent bricks and other debris outside the chain-link fence erected around the building Friday. A portion of the north wall was taken down Tuesday because it was leaning toward the street and creating a public hazard. Building owner Ross Walker planned to meet with an engineer and insurance adjustor before demolishing the building completely.

Below: Another view of the Tribune building after its collapse Sunday. [Photo also by Werner Elmker.]


Empty lot on Main to become city park

"The Fairfield Ledger"
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Front Page

Empty lot on Main to become city park
By Andy Hallman
Ledger news editor

The Fairfield City Council learned Monday that an anonymous donor wishes to buy an empty lot and donate it to the city, provided the city uses it as a park.

The empty lot is at the southwest corner of West Briggs Avenue and North Main Street. The lot was previously occupied by the Tribune Printing Company. Daryn Hamilton, chair of the council's property committee, said his committee discussed the donation and recommended the council approve the idea, which it did unanimously.

Hamilton said the plan is for the buyer of the property to donate it to the Greater Jefferson County Foundation, which will in turn give it to the city. Not only that, the donor has agreed to make numerous improvements to the empty lot. The estimated value of the lot and the proposed improvements is $200,000.

The improvements will include a new concrete surface on the property, making it handicap accessible. Water and electric lines will be added, too.

Hamilton said the idea is that they could accommodate a stage for outdoor performances in the summertime.

"The electricity could power speakers for a concert. Those wouldn't be permanently on the site, but they could be brought in," Hamilton said. "I think we would have people apply for the use of the park like we do for Central Park."

Platers will be added to give the grounds a park-feeling.

"The idea is to have some mobile planters, something that can be shifted around like a variety of smaller trees or flowers," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said there might also be places where people can sit to enjoy a meal.

Maintenance of the new park would be minimal, Hamilton said, and confined mostly to snow removal and moving the plants around.

Hamilton believes the land will be acquired and improvements made as early as fall.

"We'll probably have a grand opening dedication next spring," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said the gift was extremely generous, and said the donor is committed to the community and to creating a place for external events near the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.

"This means a lot to the city," Hamilton said. "This is a great improvement."

On July 8, 2014, the Tribune Printing Company building that once stood on the lot was partly demolished after it was found to be structurally unsound earlier that day. The building was completely demolished later that summer. The debris was hauled away and the lot became nothing but a flat slab of concrete on the east side and gravel on the west side.

In 2014, FAIRfest used the empty lot as a "second stage" in addition to its main stage east of the convention center. Musical acts performed on the lot throughout the festivities.

The lot that the former Tribune Printing Company once stood on is now simply a
concrete slab, but that will change later this year when it receives a makeover.

This page was created on 15 January 2015 and updated on 22 June 2017, and is copyrighted. This page may be copied and used for personal purposes but can not be republished nor used for commercial purposes without the author's written permission.

I am the County Coordinator and the Webmaster, the one who is responsible for the IAGenWeb project for Jefferson County, Iowa. Please contact me if you would like to contribute to this database or if you note any problems with these pages.

Return to the Jefferson County Main Page