An iconic historical building was removed from the Pratt business landscape this week.
The Pratt Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Pratt has been demolished and the removal of the remains should be complete by December 7.
Throughout the week, Bryan Simpson of Simpson Dirt Construction has been systematically working his way through the building at 701 East First Street and sorting out material for removal to the Pratt County Landfill or for recycling.
The exterior and interior stone will be crushed and used for road surfacing material. The concrete walls of the basement will also be used for road material, Simpson said.
There was very little dimensional lumber in the building. The building was not insulated and the main floor had no wooden wall studs. It was just interior and exterior mortared together. Without insulation, the cold and heat would transfer to the inside walls. Water would form inside the building when it rained.
As for metal, two long I-beams that ran the length of the building were recovered and there was some metal in the front and back part of the roof that will also be recycled. The rest of the roof, that needed to be repaired, was wooden girders. The remains of the roof and the interior of the building were taken to the Pratt County Landfill for disposal.
A small out-building on the property on the property was also demolished. The sidewalks will also be removed. The hole will be filled in and the lot smoothed over.
The building was built in 1939 and dedicated in 1940. It was named in honor of Pratt County native Lt. Col. Earl H. "Pete" Ellis. The building was listed on the Kansas Historical Register.
The Pratt VFW Charter 1362 got to a point that they were unable to maintain the building and sold it. Ownership of the building changed several times since the VFW sold it almost 20 years ago. In 2015, they moved into a new building at the intersection of Starr and Blaine. The new building has the original flag pole from the original building. That flag pole used to stand in front of the administration building at Victory Heights, a housing area for the Pratt Army Air Field during World War II.
Bob Blasi is the current owner of the lot where the now-demolished VFW building stood. He was notified by the State of Kansas Historical Board that it was easier to demolish an historic structure than to make additions or remodel. He received permission from the City of Pratt and the State of Kansas Historical Board to demolish the building.
Efforts to reach him and find out what he intends to do with the property by The Pratt Tribune were unsuccessful.
While the building is gone, the stone with the construction date and a VFW stone were salvaged from the front entrance area, said George Stevens, member of the Pratt VFW, who took possession of the items before demolition took place.