Concerns in Columbia over historic building that could collapse - WSMV Channel 4

Concerns in Columbia over historic building that could collapse

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COLUMBIA, TN (WSMV) -

Days after a building crumbled to the ground in downtown Columbia, there are concerns another one is about to collapse. Despite complaints, there may not be anything anyone can do.

That's because the building, the old Morton funeral home, is on a list of endangered historic sites.

The bricks have been crumbling, the walls are buckling in and the roof has already collapsed. But some council members don't want the building demolished.

"We have condemned that building, and the roof has collapsed. The building is collapsing in on itself at this point," said Columbia chief building official Johnny McClanahan.

The city says they've been back and forth with the building's owners since 2009 to have it demolished, citing public safety, especially considering its close proximity to a nearby church.

But the City Council has halted that process.

"There was a large public outcry to save the building, and I think that is still being pursed at some level," McClanahan said.

Debbie Matthews is one of the council members who's been fighting to keep the building standing. She sees the old Morton funeral home not as a regular building, but a piece of history.

"Eleanor Roosevelt was here as a part of the conflict that was going on. Thurgood Marshall represented the young men that were arrested here," Matthews said.

The old funeral home was a black-owned landmark that once was a central hideout place during race riots in the 1940s. Matthews says it's a civil rights battlefield in danger.

"This facility has been put on the top 10 most critical sites that we need to preserve and protect, but it is threatened. The building is in bad shape. There is no doubt about it. We do have someone that has volunteered to put a roof on the building," Matthews said.

For now, Matthews says the building is off limits for demolition, and she hopes more people can come on board to bring it back to life.

McClanahan said engineers were sent last week to examine the building, and they will be monitoring it weekly to see if it changes.

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