Our View: Sphar holds huge potential

Published 7:58 am Tuesday, February 7, 2017

More than a century ago, the building at the corner of Depot and Main streets was at the core of Winchester’s transportation system and a key player in the agriculture business of the region.

The three-story building is one of the oldest structures standing on North Main Street, but for nearly 20 years, it has sat empty. 

What was once a bustling feed and seed business adjacent to a busy railroad depot is now a crumbling reminder of what once was. 

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With the collaboration of several local organizations, the Sphar building could once again be home to an integral part of our community. 

The Sphar family and the building have a rich history in Winchester and Clark County. 

In 1936, W.R. Sphar and W.R. (Bill) Sphar, Jr., formed a partnership, which they named Sphar & Co., to handle feed, seed, fertilizer, grain and wool. They rented a section of the V.W. Bush warehouse on North Main Street, which had been built in 1880. 

The building was purchased by its last owner in 1999 and fell into disrepair. 

Today, the 136-year-old building is owned by the City of Winchester with plans to transform the space into a welcome center with offices for agencies like the chamber of commerce, tourism and industrial authority. 

For the last couple years, the city of Winchester, Clark County and The Greater Clark Foundation have worked together to try and obtain, stabilize and renovate the 27,000-square-foot building.

Last year, the city purchased the building for $100,000 with money pledged by GCF. Between pledges and grants, there is nearly $2 million available for the project.

The community has made huge investments in restoring and preserving the building.

If you don’t remember a time when the Sphar building was still active, you might have memories of having photos taken there or marveling at the historic building as you drove down Main Street or strolled along the cobbled road at the Winchester-Clark County Farmers’ Market. 

For one reason or another, the building holds special meaning to Winchester and Clark County. 

As the city prepares to unveil the downtown master plan later this year, restoring and finding a way to breath new life into the Sphar building should be of utmost importance. 

It would be a great loss to see the historic building deteriorate to a point of no return. 

We applaud the city and the many other agencies who have played a role in protecting what has become a treasured local historic landmark. 

Seeing the finished product is something we eagerly look forward to, and we are excited to watch as progress is made.