Town officials will continue to discuss the fate of the historic Flat Iron Building in Mount Airy during a joint workshop between Town Council and a task force looking for ways to preserve the building.
The workshop will be held at 5 p.m., Tuesday, at the Mount Airy Town Hall, 110 South Main St., in the council chambers. The meeting is open to residents, however, no public comment will be allowed. Mount Airy Mayor Larry Hushour said the workshop discussion will focus on “plausible ways to either restore the building in place, or move the building slightly south and east to a new footprint.” There is no vote planned.
For more than a decade, the town has been trying to decide the fate of the historic building. Mount Airy Town Manager David Warrington said three proposals are being considered — demolish it, keep it in the same spot and do whatever is necessary to make it safe or demolish the current building and rebuild it nearby.
In May, the Town Council voted 3-2 to demolish the structure because of safety concerns. Later that month, Hushour said he was exploring options to preserve the historic building.
“I am willing to say, with absolutely no uncertainty, that the concerned citizens of this town deserve the right to restore this building with their own volunteer task force established by me,” Hushour said in May. “I am offering to take responsibility for this building, for better or worse.”
Over the years, several groups of volunteers have rallied to save the building.
Most recently, Larry Valett, a volunteer with the Historical Society of Carroll County, and town residents Charles Beck and Jim Molesworth, spearheaded an effort to explore preservation options that could be funded by state and federal grant money.
The building is significant because it was rebuilt out of brick after the Fire of 1903 burned all of South Main Street, according to Valett. William Smith, a harness maker, owned the structure at the time. Since 1903, it has stood in various configurations and had many uses, including as the town hall, a museum and the first American Legion Post in town after World War II.
The existing building has three floors with a footprint of about 1,000 square feet. The construction is load-bearing concrete or brick walls, with two wood-framed floors, a wood-framed ceiling over the upper most level and a wood-framed roof.
In 1950, the town purchased the building with an intent to demolish it and widen Main Street, but in 1959, the Town Council voted to keep the building intact, Valett said.
In January 2022, the Town Council awarded a $40,000 contract to Design Collective, an architectural firm, to explore development options for the Flat Iron Building site. The town recently paid $24,000 for a structural assessment of the building, performed by Albrecht Engineering, Inc., and its report was published Jan. 3.
According to the report, the engineering firm estimates a cost of about $541,000 to rehab the main structure, complete site work and construct a tunnel that would replace a narrow portion of sidewalk along the current building and create a tunnel walkway along Main Street for pedestrians. The report noted the estimate was for structural improvement costs only, and there would be architectural, site/utility and other costs not covered in the report.
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Hushour has been on the frontlines fighting to save what he calls an iconic town building. He put together a task force of residents in August to study structural and engineering improvements needed to save the building from being demolished. The task force has nine members, including Hushour and Town Councilwoman Lynne Galletti, who serves as council liaison.
“I look forward to having the task force work with the council to see if some common ground may be reached leading to the restoration of the building,” Hushour said. “The task force has been very motivated since its inception.
“The building was decorated by volunteers and was quite an attraction throughout the holiday season. Through the Historical Society many fundraising activities have been held in an effort to defray the costs of the structural assessment.”
In the town’s 2020 Community Survey, in answer to a question on how residents would like to see their tax dollars used on the Flat Iron Building, about 75% of respondents indicated they wanted the building removed and replaced with another option, such as a park, plaza or new building. Just 7% chose to refurbish the building.