After a long back-and-forth between the town and the building’s owner, a demolition crew on Wednesday began razing the former Red & White grocery store in Clayton.
The town condemned the building at West Front and O’Neill streets in 2012 because it was crumbling. The owner, Katie Smith, tried to work out a plan to renovate the former store, but it never panned out.
In 2014, Smith appealed the town’s demolition order to earn more time to bring the building up to code. However, a judge agreed that Smith had had her chance to change things, and he upheld the town’s decision to demolish the building.
The town paid Greenway Waste Solutions about $35,000 to raze the structure. On Monday, crews in protective suits and masks removed siding from the front of the asbestos-laden building, and two days later, excavators tore down the structure.
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Paul Bergmann stopped to take photos of the demolition. Bergmann, who was visiting a friend in Clayton, was walking a dog when he noticed the building going down.
“I remember when this thing was operational,” Bergmann said. “It did pretty good, and then 10 to 20 years ago, it started to poop out. It’s just sat there, just doing nothing.”
Smith didn’t own the building during the time it became unsafe. In 2006, she sold the store to Robert and Patricia Bryant, but Robert Bryant said health problems kept him from properly maintaining the property.
Facing foreclosure, the Bryants deeded the property back to Smith, the lien holder, in November 2012. The transaction occurred days after Clayton building inspectors gave the Bryants 60 days to fix the property or have it torn down.
The Clayton Town Council gave Smith a reprieve, hoping an investor would step forward to restore the building. Clayton resident Randy Messick showed interest in the property, applied for a work permit, painted the storefront and lined up engineers. But when council members wanted proof of financial backing and renovation plans, Messick provided neither.
In February 2014, the Town Council voted to raze the building.
The town will place a lien on the property to recover the demolition cost. Under North Carolina law, liens must be paid before a property can be sold to another party, meaning Smith would have to repay the town before she could sell the building.
A structure has sat on the Red & White lot for more than a century. Clayton historian Pam Baumgartner said the area near West Front and O’Neill streets was one of the first to develop after the N.C. Railroad Co. built a rail line from Goldsboro to Charlotte through Clayton.
In 1853, the first leg of the rail line opened, and the railroad company built a wood-fueling stop on property near the present West Front and O’Neill streets, according to a history of the town penned by Baumgartner and Todd Johnson.
The wood-fueling stop was on land owned by Isaac and Sarah Stallings. After her husband died, Sarah Stallings sold lots around the wood-fueling station to residents who built stores in the area.
A photo from 1909 shows a one-story wooden building on the lot where the Red & White eventually did business.
“When she started selling off lots, that was a prominent area for things,” Baumgartner said. “It was a popular place.”
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