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VIDEO: Demolition of Durham Fair Buildings "Bittersweet"

A small crowd gathered at the Durham Fairgrounds on Thursday to watch crews demolish Presidents' Hall and the Crow's Nest.


On Thursday, it took a little more than an hour to dismantle what had stood in Durham for 87 years.

By 8 a.m., a small crowd had gathered at the Durham Fairgrounds to watch the demolition of Presidents' Hall, a structure built in 1925 as a dairy barn that had served more recently as home to baked goods and arts and crafts exhibits.

"Anything like this, when you lose it, it's bittersweet," said Durham Fair Association Vice President Henry Coe, who like many in the crowd snapped photos of the excavator as it tore through the building's metal roof and vinyl siding.

"I've been involved with this fair for over 60 years so there's a lot of memories here," said Norm Hicks. "I think it's a change, and I don't see change as a threat. I see it as an opportunity."

The change will not happen overnight, according to fair officials.

Crews will spend about two weeks tearing down and removing the debris from Presidents' Hall and the Crow's Nest Building, both of which were damaged during the winter of 2011.

Construction on replacement buildings, which are being designed by Middlefield architech Jan Wojas, could begin as early as next spring.

"I think at this point the goal for this year, immediate, is for these buildings to come down today and then the focus is 100 percent, from now until September 27th, on the fair," said Durham Fair marketing coordinator Michelle LaPointe.

"Hopefully by next spring or summer we'll be in a position to rebuild," she said.

Repairing the fair's two oldest buildings would have taken a "heroic" efffort, according to Durham Fair maintenance director John Mitchell.

"The [Crow's Nest] has extensive structural damage in the basement, all of the columns are kicked. The eves are caved in. There was a huge amount of mold issues, the walls leaked," Mitchell said.

Presidents' Hall had similar issues and a structural engineer deemed both buildings unsafe, Coe said.

Once debris is cleared from the site, gravel will be placed over the existing footprint of the buildings in order for the space to be utilized during the fair.

Some of the wood from the structures has been reclaimed for use as exhibit shelving and other needs, according to fair member Jim Rossi.

"I've been here since May tearing things out," he said.

Former Durham Fair president Len Baginski, who remembered spending time in the Crow's Nest during Hurricane Gloria, was less sentimental when asked if he had any feelings about the demolition.

"No," he said.

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