When a giant boulder from the Rimrocks crashed into their home on Oct. 9, Jon Lodge and Jane Deschner had no warning.
On Thursday, they knew exactly when their home of 15 years would be destroyed, and all they could do was take pictures.
“The first several years we lived there, we’d go drive someplace to dinner. We’d have to stop, pull over and say, ‘Look, there’s the house,’ or ‘There’s the house from here.’ You could see it from all over Billings,” Deschner said. “We were there a long time. Those kind of memories come back.”
Deschner and Lodge sat atop the Rims on Thursday morning and watched as an excavator from Accurate Concrete Cutting began knocking down the walls of the trapezoidal, multilevel home at 1313 Granite Ave. They saw the west wall come down first, followed by the roof and then the east wall.
Deschner and Lodge then drove down to Granite Avenue and saw the house from the street level. As Lodge walked past a police barrier, Police Lt. Mark Cady squeezed him on the shoulder.
“How are you holding up?” Cady asked Lodge.
“Oh, look at that,” an astonished Lodge said as the excavator continued its work.
Eventually the floor caved in. The excavator picked up a stainless-steel refrigerator and crumpled it like a wad of tin foil. Papers blew out from the basement and caught in nearby bushes.
“You watch your refrigerator get smashed up, and your kitchen cupboards are all over the place,” Deschner said.
Deschner and Lodge were able to save a few things this week, but only one moving company was willing to go near the house because of the danger.
“We went back last night to say goodbye,” Deschner said.
It hasn’t been an easy six months for the couple, who are well-known local artists. Back in October, Lodge barely escaped injury when the giant slab of the Rims broke off above their house. The slab broke into smaller pieces, and one of them, a 50-ton boulder, smashed into the home. Lodge was in another room in the house.
After months of back-and-forth involving the city, the couple and the couple’s insurance carrier, the city hired Accurate Concrete Cutting to remove the rest of the rock still clinging to the Rims. That took time, but it came down in spectacular fashion on Monday. After that, crews began removing the rocks from inside the home. Then they demolished what was left of the home.
“It needed to be knocked down because it was not stable anymore,” said Jon Thompson, the city’s parks supervisor.
It’s still not clear who will pay the $139,225 bill owed to Accurate Concrete Cutting, based in Vancouver, Wash. Most of the Rims area above the city is considered city parkland. The City Council first declined to pay to have the rocks removed, but then voted earlier this year to pay for the rock removal above and in the Lodge-Deschner home. Council members have hinted that the city might tack the cost onto Lodge and Deschner’s property tax bill.
Deschner and Lodge have sued their insurance company and the city, so the matter could be tied up for quite a while. The insurance company refuses to pay, so Lodge and Deschner have no idea what will happen in the future, including if they’ll rebuild on the site. They are living in a downtown town home right now, with their things scattered in storage throughout the city.
“We have no idea what our resources are going to be, or when our resources are going to be,” Deschner said. “We’re still making mortgage payments. It makes the next step ... I don’t know what it is. We have a pile of rubble and thousands of tons of rocks that don’t belong to us. I mean, I don’t think they belong to us. I don’t want them; I didn’t want them before and I don’t want them now.”