ELYRIA — A Lorain County businessman is hoping to save part of a historic building downtown for future use, if he can.
Workers were taking down the rear portion of the Wooster Block at 529 Broad St. this week. Small excavators and backhoes piled bricks in the empty lot next door.
Kevin Flanigan, the Grafton businessman who owns the Wooster Block building, said Friday that it is “in extremely poor condition” and the back end had to be taken down for safety reasons.
He said no firm plans for the building have been made, but “a couple different ideas” have been floated to save at least a portion of it, including its prominent facade.
A partner in The Foundry Kitchen and Bar next door, Flanigan said he hopes the facade, with the word “Wooster” on it, might be saved.
“It is a very unique facade, and we’d like to be able to do something to save it, but it really comes down to the cost versus safety and what can be done and not done,” he said. “Where the facade is, the front part of the building, I’d like to make that retail, commercial, some sort of space that might create some synergy downtown.”
The building previously was home to Al & Lu Sterner’s Restaurant. Triad Investment Co. purchased the building for $32,000 in November 2015, according to Lorain County Auditor’s Office property records.
The Wooster Block was built circa 1870, according to a summary in the “Ohio Historic Places Dictionary,” published in 1999. Along with significant portions of downtown Elyria and other buildings in the city, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in August 1979.
Along with its own entry in the National Register, the Wooster Block, an example of Victorian Gothic style, also is part of the Elyria Downtown-West Avenue Historic District, which itself has a listing on the National Register.
“This unusual building features four carved heads of the Wooster brothers, who built the building, which lie between the second and first floors of the facade. Lancet windows on the second floor and an interesting arch motif at the cornice are Gothic features,” according to a summary in the dictionary.
The Wooster brothers “were prominent local merchants who operated a store in this building. The small structure is representative of the visual variety and fine craftsmanship of late-19th-century commercial architecture,” the summary concludes.
Mayor Holly Brinda said Friday she was aware of the work but was hopeful that Flanigan can save portions of it.
“The building is in pretty bad shape,” she said.
Flanigan said growing the base of downtown businesses is important, “which then will entice other businesses” to locate there for a “good, vibrant downtown.”
“It’s going to take time; nothing happens overnight,” he said. “I think with downtown Elyria, there are a lot of opportunities.”