NOTE: After writing this post, I received a call from Bill who had just driven to church. He says the grain elevator is still standing this morning. Must be a story behind that. If anyone knows, I'd love to hear the details. So, I'll let ya read my requiem and will keep it on hold.
Update: According to a well-placed source, the guy who was gonna demolish the elevator didn't have his act together among the utility companies, the neighbors and the city. There had to be guarantees from the power company that when he pulled the elevator down, the event would not disturb power.
Also, there was an issue with the street lights just below the tower along the bike path.
So, apparently, when the owner gets his act together and fulfills all requirements, the building will go down. For now, it's earned a stay of execution, albeit short. Snap your pictures before another piece of history crumbles!
If all went according to plan, the tallest and one of the most distinctive landmarks in Sandpoint is now rubble. Built in 1911, the Panhandle Milling Co. grain elevator, once known as Lasswell's, was set to be destroyed at 6:30 this morning. I haven't heard an explosion, but Bill did ask if the fog which suddenly appeared outside, blocking the sun and cooling this mid-July summer air, might be residue from the demolition of the elevator. Who knows, maybe he's right.
I can remember parking my pickup next to the big loading ramp in the alley, walking up the dusty wooden steps, and buying sacks of grain in that building years ago. Often, a well-muscled young man covered with a film of grain dust from working in the elevator would heave the sacks into my pickup bed. I also remember when my dad would come home from time spent there talking to Mr. Lasswell who owned the place and his own herd of race horses. And, of course, Jack Hansen spent a year or two managing the grain store.
As I write, another chunk of Sandpoint, as we locals have known it, has probably gone to a different kind of kind of dust. The lot will be cleaned up, and a new building (probably not nearly so tall as the imposing black tower alongside Fifth Avenue) will soon appear in the elevator's place.
To all who haven't lived here long, that's no big deal. To those of us who've invested a lifetime here in our hometown, it's one more reminder that what we've grown to cherish as part of our past really has little value where the future's concerned. The methodical erasure of all signs of our peaceful, rural history seems to be on the fast track through this old railroad town. Many of us ache with each stroke.
And speaking of railroad towns, Bill was reading in this morning's Daily Bee history note from 1955 that the Great Northern Railroad had sold its depot off Baldy Road to Gay Johnson who moved it to his acreage less than a mile north on the GN Road. In 1955, the 30-year-old building was considered a city landmark. After all, the Great Northern Railroad greatly influenced the birth of Sandpoint, especially when railroad agents L.D. and Ellamae Farmin moved here and established a townsite.
That depot remained on Gay Johnson's piece of property just south of our home. I believe the property was then purchased by the railroad for the fast track cutting off to the southeast. Later, the Cox family acquired the land through a trade. I'm guessing the depot house stood in its new home for another 40 years or so before the local fire department came out and burned it down as part of their training exercises. So, there went a piece of history into the ashes, just as was set to happen with this morning's elevator demolition.
I also read in the paper this morning about the anguish in Marguerite Fallat's heart as she watched her beloved Chalet Motel slowly disappear to the ball and wrecker, making way for Highway 95 expansion. The Fallats put so much love into that motel that customers would continue to return year after year to enjoy its peaceful serenity which has become but a memory.
I've talked to many people this past week who have returned to their hometown for a visit. In some cases, they almost tear up while lamenting the dramatic changes they see every time they arrive in town. One even told me she sees very few signs left of the wonderful place where she grew up, finding it harder and harder each time to seek out vestiges of the welcoming old reliables "where everybody knows your name" that have always lured her home.
Those of us who live here all the time don't see it so dramatically as the visitors do, but we still wonder if we'll wake up some morning and feel like aliens in a strange country. Yes, there will always be the lake, and, of course, the mountains, many of which are carved out to make way for the multitude of high-end homes owned by a lot of people who occupy them for maybe a week each year.
I do wonder, however, if what almost appears to be " The Plan," aimed at sanitizing our community of all rough but wholesome edges, includes finding a way to get rid of the Tam-o-Shanter Bar or the Hoot Owl Cafe. If that happens, then we'll know for sure that all quirky remnants our colorful historical heritage are completely doomed to make way for a word I'm beginning to loathe: AMBIANCE.