Firewall crashes; none injured
A century-plus old firewall between two sets of Rockdale buildings collapsed last Wednesday and Thursday, damaging a half block of businesses and possibly gouging yet another hole in the downtown area.
The brick firewall, which extended about 3-1/2 feet above rooftops, ran north and south above the block bounded by East Cameron (US 79), North Main (FM 908) and two alleys.
The first bricks fell about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, drawing volunteer firefighters, police, an AMR ambulance team and city officials to the scene.
Much of the remainder of the wall fell about 9 a.m. Thursday, inflicting even more damage to the already reeling buildings fronting both Cameron and Main.
No injuries were reported but there was one near miss.
“I just finished building this stage about 3 p.m. Wednesday,” Cliff’s Tavern co-owner Mark Clark told The Reporter, looking down at a two-foot high pile of rubble covering his new stage. “I’m glad I wasn’t standing right there a couple of hours later.”
Clark was also in the building the next morning when the remainder of the wall collapsed but was not near the point of impact.
DAMAGES—Here’s a brief “scorecard” of the state of affairs early this week:
• Cameo Insurance, 113 East Cameron (the pink building), devastating damage, collapsed roof, rubble throughout the building, closed, deemed “unsafe” and an almost certain candidate for razing.
• Ram Optical, 208 North Main, damaged in both falls, Thursday morning incident blew out front plate glass windows, remains closed but expected to re-open.
• Cliff’s Tavern, 218 North Main, damage to courtyard area, including brand new stage, remained closed through Labor Day weekend. “That would have been one of our busiest times of the summer,” Clark said.
Clark said the business would reopen after it clears a city safety code inspection.
• O’Barr-Rost Realtors, 204 North Main, Realtor Dave Phillips told The Reporter Wednesday evening, following the first fall, the business was moved across the street to 229 North Main and remains open for business. “I was downtown about a block away the next morning and the rest of it fell,” Phillips said.
A vacant two-story building, containing an upstairs apartment at the corner of Cameron and Main, escaped serious damage.
ANOTHER ‘GAP’—Lon Williams, Code Enforcement Officer for the City of Rockdale, was one of those responding to the scene on Wednesday afternoon.
“This is all preliminary at this point,” he told The Reporter. “But I’d expect Cameo Insurance and the antique building are going to have to come down.”
His outlook wasn’t as bleak for the buildings fronting Main.
“Of course they’re going to need to be inspected, so their structural integrity can be assessed, but I’d anticipate they’re probably going to be able to reopen after repairs are made,” he said.
If the two buildings are razed, it will create a gap in the downtown Rockdale profile directly across the block from the site of the last major downtown disaster.
On Dec. 11, 2002, Arledge Antiques and Ballard Carpets Etc. were destroyed in one of Rockdale’s landmark fires.
Both buildings were razed.
During the initial confusion last Wednesday, firefighters warned other occupants of the block about the situation and possible danger.
The city library, located on the other end of the block, closed 15 minutes early but reopened Thursday morning.
Neither the library, nor the block’s other “residents,” Christian Information Book Store and Gospel Life Church, sustained any damage.