After one of its exterior walls and an interior partition collapsed Tuesday, the Greensfelder Building at 313 E. Market St. was demolished, leaving behind a volume of history spanning over 150 years.
In his book “But Not Forgotten,” published January 2012, Kevin Burkett writes the building was built in 1860.
According to records at the Cass County Historical Society, Eli Greensfelder opened a mens clothing store in the building in 1873.
Suffering from a stroke, Greensfelder died in the store in 1918, after which his twin sons Melvin and Herbert took over the family business upon returning from their service in World War I.
Records at the historical society go on to state that Melvin died in 1975, with Herbert following in 1977. Their store remained until 1982.
Ron Walters bought the building in 1983 and started a business called Colonial Decorating Center.
By 1987, the building was vacant.
In 1991, Janice Baldwin opened a packaging store called The Box Shoppe in the building, which she ran until selling it to Judy Rolewicz in 1992.
After the contract on The Box Shoppe franchise name ended, Rolewicz changed the name of the business to Box, Wrap and Ship Inc. The store offered United Parcel Service shipping services and gift wrapping services and sold boxes and packing supplies.
Rolewicz fondly recalled her time in the Greensfelder building, telling anecdotes of all the compliments she’d receive for her window decorations, the friendly relationships she had with other business owners in the area and the success the store had.
“There was a time when it was chaos,” Rolewicz said. “One day we had 800 packages, way back in the ‘90s. It was just booming; that place was hot.”
Over a decade before the building came down, Burkett writes its structure was already being tested when nearby buildings were demolished in the early 2000s.
Rolewicz was still running her shipping company at Greensfelder at that time and remembered having to struggle with a partially collapsed wall and a second story floor that was caving in. After having to move her business elsewhere, she said she was pressured to have the building torn down.
“I think they just wanted me to get it over with and tear it down, but I just thought, that’s history,” Rolewicz said.
Rolewicz instead decided to donate it to the state. In 2003, Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit organization that preserves historic properties, took it over.
“They fixed it up and made it look so nice,” Rolewicz said.
She said she was sorry to hear the building was demolished Tuesday.
“It’s really sad to see something that beautiful just have to fall.”
While the exact cause is still unknown, city building commissioner Bill Drinkwine said it looked as if water had gotten through the layers of brick on the wall that had collapsed. As it saturated the interior of the wall over time, Drinkwine said the water, along with wind, likely caused the collapse.
“It was a beautiful building,” Rolewicz said. “It had a lot of history. I have the abstract to it and I’m keeping it. I was there at one time, that’s all I can say.”
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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