Resort-era hotel comes tumbling down in Berne

The Enterprise —H. Rose Schneider

All that remains of the White Sulphur Springs Hotel is seen here, being moved by excavators. Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier said that signs warning of asbestos, seen in the foreground, were precautionary. The 137-year-old building was not likely to have been built with any.

BERNE — Once a resort nestled in East Berne, the White Sulphur Springs Hotel is now nothing but a pile of rubble. The condemned building was torn down in a matter of hours Wednesday afternoon.

Neighbors watched as the building was leveled, some standing at the opposite side of Helderberg Trail from the demolition site, and some sitting in lawn chairs.

Charlie Miller, who said he has been the property’s neighbor for the past 67 years, said there had been concerns about the building’s safety for some time.

“There’s a little bit of nostalgia associated with it,” noted Jon Kusler, who has lived nearby for the last 30 years. He added that he, too, had worried about the soundness of the building.

Demolition started around 11:30 a.m. Two tracked excavators, or “trackhoes,” were operated by the demolition company M. Cristo Inc. to tear down the building in pieces, before the structure completely collapsed around 1 p.m.

 

The Enterprise —H. Rose Schneider
It takes two: Tracked excavators, known as “
trackhoes,” push and pull on the White Sulphur Springs Hotel.

 

As the building was demolished, a baby raccoon made its way to the side of the road where workers were supervising the destruction. The raccoon cried continuously, presumably for its mother, seen leaving earlier, and before disappearing.

Berne’s town supervisor, Kevin Crosier, said the company, which had been contracted by the property owners, would haul the refuse off the site to the Rapp Road landfill over the next few days. The foundation would then be filled with soil, with six inches of topsoil.

“So, you’ll come by here, there will be nothing but a lawn,” said Crosier. “You’ll never know anything was here.”

Warnings of asbestos, while not likely to be found in a 137-year-old building, were posted around the site. Crosier said it was impossible to inspect the building for asbestos and so the signs were put up as a precautionary measure. The workers also sprayed water to eliminate dust, and air monitors were running during demolition.

 

The Enterprise —H. Rose Schneider
Dust to dust: Workers gesture to one another as the demolition of the White Sulphur Springs Hotel nears completion.

 

The former hotel has been abandoned for years. It was built in 1880 by Jacob Hochstrasser, and was closed in 1916. Two churches subsequently owned the property; first, the United Pentecostal Church “Word of Life Ministries” in 1960, and then the current owner, Evangel Christian Church of Queens in 2005.

The location currently serves as a retreat for members of the church. Three modern buildings to be used by visitors stand on the rest of the property — a gymnasium, dormitory, and cafeteria.

Crosier told The Enterprise on Wednesday that Evangel plans to sell the property now that the building is no longer there.

The building at 1425 Helderberg Trail was scheduled to be demolished after the town of Berne notified Evangel in accordance to its Unsafe Buildings and Collapsed Structures Ordinance, which requires the town board send a notice to a building’s owner should a building be deemed unsafe. The owners must then begin either securing the building or removing it within 30 days from receiving the notice; the work must be completed within 60 days. Had the owner not complied, the town could have demolished the structure, removed the debris, and assessed the cost against the land on which the building stood.

The town’s code enforcement officer, Timothy Lippert, had approached the town board about enforcing the law in March. Lippert told The Enterprise that month that he had inspected it previously and had determined it was not only unsafe, but likely past the point of renovation. The town later contacted Evangel’s engineer, who concluded it would have to be demolished.

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