Letter to the Editor for Dec. 4, 2018

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Questions worth exploring for Sphar project

Since the city announced it must reject all bids for the Sphar Building restoration, I’ve talked to at least a dozen Clark Countians of different stripes about the project.

In these conversations, when asked my thoughts, I’ve had to say, “I don’t know what to think.”

I drive by the building most days, and when the roof went, the voice in my head said, “Well there goes that project.”

But my “Never Say Die” voice, which has steered me to victory when it counted most, says “Wait. Think this through, but cover the roof for Pete’s sake.”

Harry Enoch has done a fine job of tracing the history of the building from its 1880 beginning as Valentine White Bush’s hemp and grain warehouse to its 2016 purchase by the city.

The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is to be an anchor for North Main Street, as the Bluegrass Heritage Museum is for South Main.

Four options already have been defined, with tear-down seeming a likely one. This will be discussed at the Winchester City Commission meeting at 5:30 p.m. today, with the possibility of a vote.

“Turn outward” is the direction recommended to those of us who are part of The Greater Clark Foundation’s Public Innovator program. This crisis for Sphar is a time to do just that.

There is some history here, beyond what is apparent. The in-the-fog-of-the-morning surprise demolition of the handsome railroad station by the L&N Railroad still stings. That building could have been repurposed many times over.

I’m pretty sure the community doesn’t want to make this mistake again, but I could be wrong. It really could be hopeless. But, maybe not. That is what all of us, with a process defined by the Harwood Institute and The Greater Clark Foundation, should answer.

Is there a way to cover the roof with tin or tarps, something less costly than “stabilize and mothball,” and less final than tearing the building down?

Enoch’s columns indicate the original building had two additions, one to the rear, the site of the biggest cave in, as far as I can tell. Is there a way to tear down this addition and keep the rest?

Would the downtown group of innovators, myself included, step forward, perhaps with a second working group, to explore more possibilities? Can Greater Clark facilitate?

Laura Ann Freeman

Clark County