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The Lost Years

In 1971 the Vigilant Firehouse closed with the engines, hoses and firemen moving into a new and architecturally less interesting building about a block south on Main Street They took the firebell and at some point, maybe then, the top of the bell tower was removed. 

I haven't found a history of exactly what happened next, but the building was auctioned off at one point, was a crafts shop for awhile, and most recently, two restaurants. First was The Firehouse and after some years that was followed by Paisano's, an Italian restaurant. That restaurant closed in about 2005 and the building was empty until 2016 when we bought it. Ten years of neglect led to unde-tected and unrepaired roof leaks that buckled the hardwood floor in some areas, and the collapse of an add-on wooden structure that had been the restaurant kitchen.

We are now, 2019-2023, replacing the roof, making structural repairs, and  have removed the remains of the kitchen, that revealed a brick rear wall that needed extensive repair. The electric, plumbing and HVAC have to be totally replaced, and every surface cleaned and renewed. At the profit margins associated with used book-stores these repairs may never be paid for - but a used bookstore is a blessing to a community and worth the cost, if we can avoid bankruptcy!

The image above comes from an undated Wheeling Intelligencer (probably mid-80s based on the car) story announcing the auction of the Vigilant firehouse. At that time it still had the firebell cap and old garage doors and the building at right had octagonal windows - now sadly replaced with small rectangular windows. Was the past always better than the present, at least architecturally?

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