Letter to the Editor for Dec. 1, 2018
Can the Sphar building be saved?
We are approaching decision time for one of Winchester’s oldest and most historic buildings.
The city commission is facing a vote on whether to save or pull the plug on the V.W. Bush Warehouse, better known as the Sphar building.
Built in 1880, this handsome brick structure functioned as a business for more than 200 years.
Yes, the building is now in need of repairs and, yes, it will be expensive.
Does that mean we should walk away? Tear it down and plant grass? Not necessarily.
Look how Lexington handled its endangered courthouse. It faced a similar situation — the need to make expensive repairs to a building that many were advising to tear down.
Creative local leadership found a way to save their courthouse, and the fabulously-restored building has just been opened to the public. The cost was $32 million — 10 times what is needed for the Sphar building.
Our Main Street has long been the pride of Winchester; however, aging buildings have created a challenge.
In the 21st Century we have witnessed an exciting trend in our downtown. The fiscal court stepped up to save the courthouse just this past year.
Local non-profits organized to save the Guerrant Clinic (Bluegrass Heritage Museum) and Leeds Theater.
And private investors have come through big time to rescue a host of Main Street’s historic structures. It began with the Opera House, Kerr Building, Paint Center and Keyes Building, and then exploded in the last few years with three buildings on North Main and seven on South Main. Many more are now in progress.
This has resulted in a welcome expansion of quality new businesses downtown.
Would it send a negative signal if the city chooses to demolish the last original building left on Main north of Washington Street? Is it wise to turn our back on $1.73 million of grants and pledged funding?
I hope the city takes the time to explore all possible funding sources — private investor or non-profit partnerships, bridge loans, municipal bonds, Community Foundation matching grants, a GoFundMe campaign — whatever it takes to answer the question: Can the Sphar building be saved?
Harry G. Enoch