The façade of a building in downtown Portsmouth collapsed Saturday evening, blocks away from Winterfest.
Around 8:45 p.m. Saturday, first responders received reports of a building collapsing at 524 Second Street. Upon arrival, they found bricks from the building on the ground and in the street. After further investigation, witnesses and emergency crews could hear cracking sounds and see stress fractures forming on the front of the building.
Throughout the night, the building continued to drop debris onto the sidewalk and roadway until the whole front came tumbling to the ground. On Sunday, as gates opened to the popular holiday destination, Winterfest, spectators watched as cleanup crews began carrying off pieces of the building to a dumpster.
“Well, I heard about it on Facebook last night and had to come to see it for myself,” Linda Switcer said as she took a picture with her phone. “I live down here on Front Street and just wanted to see what was happening.”
Switcer, who was one of many spectators taking pictures of the building, recollected about spending time in downtown Portsmouth and shopping in several of the storefronts when she was younger.
“These buildings are very old,” Switcer said. “I actually had a building fall on my own house a few years back.”
Switcer shared she was happy no one was in the building during the time of the collapse, and that no one got hurt.
“I hope they can rebuild and that there is not too much damage to the rest of the building,” Switcer said.
While the building is just a block away from Winterfest, the event was still in full swing on Sunday. Main Street Portsmouth wrote on their Facebook page Winterfest would be open Sunday and that the incident would not have any impact on scheduled events.
“We are sad to report damage to 524 Second Street. Please keep the Burnsides in your thoughts, as they clean up and move forward. The owners are optimistic and hopeful. They are going to try to secure the structure and rebuild,” according to the Facebook page post.
While the front of the building is gone, Owners Jeremy and Maddie Burnside are staying positive about the situation and looking forward to the future.
“First off, we are very thankful no one got hurt,” Burnside said. “We were very shocked when we heard what was happening. We recently purchased the building and had it inspected, but things happen.”
Burnside shared once the dust settles, he and his wife will take a closer look at the stability of the structure and see if they can rebuild.
“It looks like the façade on the second and third floor gave way,” Burnside said. “We are hoping it’s not a bank breaker, and we can make sure it’s built right and safe and make it even better.”
While Burnside and his family say the incident is a small setback, he shared it has now lit a fire within him to see the building through and get some unique businesses to downtown Portsmouth to draw even more crowds.
“Nobody said rebuilding Portsmouth was going to be easy. Nobody said that reinvigorating a community was going to be easy,” Burnside said. “This is one small setback that we, as a community, will overcome.”
Due to the condition of the building, Burnside said the store located on the first floor of the building, Christmas on Second, will be relocated across the street for the rest of the holiday season.
“The plan is to get Janie in the Friends of Portsmouth headquarters building and get her back up and running,” Burnside said. “She has been very understanding about the whole situation, and we are so grateful for her and her business in downtown Portsmouth.”
Reach Adam Black at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1927
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