These buildings have been called many names — abandoned and dilapidated, eyesores and blight — but what it boils down to is that they’re just plain ugly. There is something unnatural about empty man-made structures, which makes it easy for the imagination to jump to conclusions about them.
Picture an alleyway between warehouses, punctuated by an open door that leads only to blackness. Imagine walking through an abandoned factory, where it is silent, except for the clinking of a rusty chain and the creaking of a wheel. In your mind’s eye, peer into the shadows to see a cellar with an earthen floor. While any of these places could serve as an excellent backdrop to a horror movie, there is the knowledge that people left these buildings behind, and the ugliness of the façade begs the deeper question, “What happened here?”
Known As: The Mountain Inn
There has been a recent emergence of murmurings among Fayetteville citizens about the city’s failed TIF project in the downtown area. Since its renovation and expansion in the 1960s, the Mountain Inn has changed ownership several times with little success. Most recently, the city council voted to use tax increment financing to remove most of the inn and to support the construction of a new structure. Though the bulk of the blight was removed in 2005, the structure of the original Mountain Inn from 1866 was left behind, keeping the historic feel of Center Street intact, and also preserving a slice of ugly for the corner.
A “Coming Soon” poster for the proposed replacement, Renaissance Towers, now lies in the alcove of the building, flanked by the dead leaves and trash that have accumulated with time. The ground floor, which is blocked by a chain-link fence, was used as office space until 2000, when Stella Moga from Ohio took ownership. Kit Williams, who is now the city attorney of Fayetteville, worked from the building for 14 years. When the building changed owners, Williams was given less than a month to vacate. Now, almost 12 years have passed, no renovations have been made and his name is still on the door.
Comprised of three stories and a basement area, there is a lot of space to be had, but interested investors would need to make major renovations to make use of the entire building. Brian Maxwell, who owns and manages Damgoode Pies next door, purchased the neighboring structure for its “ambience.” And it must be said, the remains of the Mountain Inn still holds a certain amount of charm under the debris. (Editor’s Note: I was unable to contact any of the current owners to get a statement.)
Known As: The Mexican Original Tyson Plant
At the intersection of Huntsville and Happy Hollow sits a sprawling complex of what appears to be storefronts and offices. Google maps identifies the address as Eastgate Shopping Center, and that’s what it appears to be — an abandoned strip mall. On the west side of the property, a chain-link gate stands open, and there are no signs to warn off trespassers. Metal silos stand in one corner, and on the other side of the property, sits a machine on a rooftop.
Formerly a tortilla plant, the 124,000-square-foot building was purchased by the city in 2005 and was intended to become a public justice complex. Those plans never came into fruition, but the empty warehouses and offices are sometimes used by the city fire and police departments for training. Even the grain bins come in handy. “We drop 185 pound dummies into the silos. Bring it up and then do it again,” says firefighter Carl Keller. Sergeant Stout with the Fayetteville police department says sometimes the building is used to train canine units or to practice building searches.
All of the storefronts are now vacant. Glass has piled up on one area of the sidewalk. A shopping cart has been left in one of the machine rooms. Windows are broken. Doors are missing, damaged, or unlocked. Keller says vagrants often trespass on the property. Burglars have long since stripped the building of its copper.
The future of the property remains unclear. Necessary renovations are estimated at $8 million. According to a 2009 report the city is currently kicking around a few different options for the building and surround 9.03 acres, but wouldn’t hesitate to sell it.
Known As: Campbell’s Grocery Store
Next to the Eureka Pizza on Leverett sits what appears to be a one-story apartment complex. Two of the three doors are kicked in. Debris crowds the doorways. Shattered glass and tattered insulation hang from windows. Peeking through the doors you can see cabinets, walls and rafters. Jerry Sweetster of Sweetster Property says the building was uninhabitable when they bought it. The purchase was a strategic move to control the property, and until they have a concrete plan for building something new, he sees no reason to tear it down. County assessor records say the structure was built in 1910, making it more than a century old.
The back of the building is far more interesting than the street front facade. Built on a hill, there are stairs leading to doorways where weeds have overgrown the steps, and small trees have breached the walls. There is a doorway missing one door, exposing the lower level of the building. I cannot tell if the floor is earthen or concrete covered in dirt.
Sweetster says he purchased the building from Jeannine Presley, whose family lived and worked in the building known as Campbell’s Grocery. Though I couldn’t find any additional history about the building. I have come to the conclusion that it was an apartment building at one time. My detective skills noted different numbers on three separate doorways, and I uncovered a floor plan entitled “Apartments Apartments.”