By David Lindeman
Dutch’s gas station is no more.
That old piece of Troy on South Market Street was torn down recently. I understand that eventually there will be an office building there. That might not happen for a while, but Dutch’s had been an eyesore for a long time. Back when I was growing up, it was a thriving place but in recent years it had deteriorated badly. Even if there’s just some grass there for a while, it will be a major improvement.
Dutch’s is just the latest place in that part of town to be reborn. That entire block has been transformed with the construction of the Lins building and the renovation of the old Troy Daily News. Just around the corner, the new fire station is gigantic improvement over the old, decrepit warehouse that once stood there. The old fire station is going to be a new pizza place, and how can you feel bad about more pizza? The Partners in Hope office across the street from the old fire station and the renovation of the old car dealership building on Mulberry Street also are nice upgrades.
These changes are just pieces of a rather astonishing improvement of downtown Troy in recent years. I’ve lived here most of my life and the restoration, rebirth and sometimes replacement of buildings in the downtown area is the most dramatic change I’ve ever witnessed there — not that there aren’t some places that still need a lot of work. In fact, I took a walk the other day and three places stood out.
The Grain Elevator. As long as I can remember, it has always been called “The Grain Elevator.” Back when I was a kid, it was painted in red checkerboard, like a Purina thing. There hardly is any paint left on it of any color. Many of the windows are broken. I understand the city has talked with the owner about purchasing the property, but the owner is far away and he appears to be doing all right leasing the roof to various cell phone antennas and other equipment. There’s more stuff up there than there is hanging from the bottom of a Chinese spy balloon!
Grain elevators are a tough project, but it can be done (drive over to Pleasant Hill for an example). It would be nice if the tallest thing in town didn’t look like it had been bombed, but it would take a lot of money, so I’m not holding my breath.
The Train Station. Once upon a time, Troy’s train station was a bustling place. I remember my oldest brother taking a train to Cincinnati to see Reds’ games. There were passenger trains, freight trains, all kinds of trains stopping there.
That was a long time ago. Now the train station is a forlorn place. The parking lot is strewn with railroad ties, old crossing lights and other railroad stuff. The building itself isn’t an architectural wonder, but it is pretty cool and it just cries out to be rehabilitated.
Sure, it is surrounded by old warehouses and factories and, yes, it once was the site of a toxic waste cleanup, but those are only minor details! I’m not sure what it could be, but it’s a shame to watch it crumble away.
The Old Courthouse/Odd Fellows Building. Talk about a shame. This building on West Main Street is downright embarrassing for the city and for the building’s owner — or at least, it should be. It has been three years since a tornado damaged the building, although just how much damage was done seems to be debatable. The sidewalk has been barricaded ever since.
The owner wants to tear it down. A local preservation group wants it saved. The whole thing is tied up in court.
Here’s what I think: the Odd Fellows didn’t do us any favors when they put that big front on the property back in the late 19th century, covering up the historic county courthouse. That courthouse was built in 1841 and is where the real history is located.
I think it would be great if we tear off the front of the Odd Fellows building, save and restore (or rebuild) the old courthouse and use it as a historic site and visitors’ center. We’re always talking about historic Troy, but we’ve only been around a little more than 200 years so it’s not like we’re Jerusalem or London or even Philadelphia. We have to hang onto the few things we have.
I realize saying things like this makes the owner, the preservationists and probably even city officials angry, but that’s nothing new for me. I know there’s at least one other person in this town who has had the same idea, but neither of us have any money so that means it will never happen. Once you get to the bottom line, it’s all about making money at that site, so somewhere down the road the preservationists will have to find a sugar daddy with deep pockets or the building likely will come down and take the old courthouse with it. Or else they can fight in court for another decade and we can all continue to be embarrassed.
On the other hand, at one time it looked like the future was dim for the Troy Daily News building, the old warehouse on Canal Street and the old Hobart Brothers factory lot that now is home to the new hospital. There’s always hope! Maybe someday we can meet at the old courthouse and take a tour of how Troy has come back to life. A lot of the work has already been done, but some of the toughest projects are still waiting for answers.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]