By KYLE LOVERN
It was the stomping grounds for Wally Warden, Charlotte Sanders, Jim Van Zant and many other journalists who worked in the rustic old brick building. The former Williamson Daily News (WDN) building at the 100 Block of East Third Avenue is being demolished by the Norfolk Southern Railroad this week.
The building was believed to be nearly 100 years old. The WDN moved out of the structure in December 2010 and since that time it has been vacant.
The Williamson Daily News first moved to the former Norfolk and Western Freight Depot building in 1972 from its former location farther down Third Avenue near the old Walnut Room restaurant, according to former publisher Lou Harvath, III. Harvath had just moved back to Williamson that year to start working with his father, the late Barney Harvath, who was also the former publisher.
For a short time before the newspaper was relocated there, a grocery store rented the building.
Virginia Asphalt Paving Company of Princeton, W.Va. received the contract to demolish the building and haul the debris away. William Erps is the supervisor for the job.
“It should come down quick,” Erps said on Tuesday evening. He said his company does a lot of work for the railroad. The debris is being hauled off to different locations. He was not sure if any of the material would be recycled.
The city of Williamson has long been a part of the railroad’s history with one of the biggest rail yards in the eastern part of the United States, a roundhouse, the old passenger train station which currently houses City Hall and the freight depot building right across the tracks.
Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick had hoped that the city of Williamson could purchase the building for a farmer’s market. “We didn’t have the money to purchase or renovate it,” he said. “We wanted it to be similar to the Capitol Market in Charleston.”
The farmer’s market has been using the front parking area of the property on Saturdays. Recently that was relocated beside of Goodwill on Second Avenue and Vinson Street.
“Evidently the railroad decided for safety and liability issues that it should be demolished. The property is to be retained for the future use of the Norfolk Southern,“ McCormick said.
“We lost a half a block and 100 years of history with this loss of this historic building,” the mayor said.
City officials stated that some homeless and vagrant persons had been trespassing on the property. The building has evidence of their occupancy.
Norfolk and Western was formed in 1881 and later merged with other companies and became Norfolk Southern.
Many sightseers were driving by to see a historical part of downtown Williamson come tumbling down on Tuesday night and all day on Wednesday. What they saw was twisted metal I-beam, cinder blocks and brick and mortar piled up.
What they could not see however, was the countless memories and stories that the old building had housed for the many employees that had worked there.