BUTTE − A historic warehouse building on South Wyoming Street collapsed early Saturday morning. The cause for the collapse is not yet known.
The warehouse was built in 1920 and once housed a refrigeration company. Much of its south-facing wall collapsed shortly after 8:30 a.m. The building was unoccupied and no injuries were reported. The collapse was witnessed by employees at Steele’s Furniture, which is just across the street from the warehouse.
Barricades have been erected around the structure.
David Schultz, Butte-Silver Bow’s public works director, said about a third of the south side of the building fell down, scattering bricks across Iron Street.
“It looks unlikely that any more substantial pieces of that building will collapse,” Schultz said. “But we can’t know that for certain. We have barricaded off the street to keep people away from the building in case there are additional problems.”
Schultz said he inspected the building Saturday morning and thought that perhaps plugged roof drains that allowed water to build up on the roof caused the building to collapse, but the building’s owner, Neil Lynch, disputes that.
“I was on the roof yesterday. The foundation failed. There was no roof drain plugged,” Lynch said. “I didn’t see any other signs of this happening other than the foundation was sinking into the ground. The foundation has been deteriorating since the Whalen Tire fire in 2009. A water main burst at the tire shop and flooded my basement, which caused severe water damage.”
Lynch said no repairs were made to the warehouse building because of pending litigation between him and Whalen Tire’s insurance company. Lynch has owned the building for 16 years. He owns a number of the adjacent buildings through his limited liability company, Lifetime Enterprises.
The building has been vacant since the 1980s. It is also scheduled to be auctioned off by the county later this year because the taxes on it have not been paid for four years.
Lynch said he plans to pay the taxes, which total more than $6,000, this summer and he will have the building demolished. He plans to build a new building on the lot or put in a parking lot.
“It’s a shame to see a building uptown get torn down and tossed in the landfill,” he said. “I’m saddened by the loss of the building. I go out of my way to preserve these old buildings.”