An Anchor in Downtown Birdseye
In 1893, merchant William N. Koerner opened shop in a fine new two-story commercial building in downtown Birdseye. To call the place a general store would understate its importance to the small Dubois County community. Koerner sold just about everything, from dry goods, glassware, groceries and clothing to a line of farming implements.
Even though it has been used for storage in recent years, the building remains an important part of Birdseye’s downtown streetscape. When part of the structure’s back wall collapsed, concerned locals asked for help. Recently, the Save the Koerner Block Committee, a coalition of Birdseye and Dubois County residents, joined with Indiana Landmarks to try to raise $35,000 to stabilize the building and prevent further damage.
“Partially collapsed sections of the roof on the back of the building’s north end are placing pressure on the remaining portions of the building. We need to remove this roof section, tarp the remaining roof, and construct a temporary back wall to weatherproof the building and secure it for the future,” explains Greg Sekula, director of Indiana Landmarks’ Southern Regional Office.
The county’s local nonprofit preservation group, Dubois County Landmarks Preservation, Inc., used a grant from Indiana Landmarks’ Efroymson Family Endangered Places program to hire Newburgh architect Adam Green and structural engineer James Morley of Morley and Associates in Evansville to develop a stabilization plan for the building. Contractor Chris Wilmes consulted with the group to develop the $35,000 budget.
Building owners Ronald and Karen Ellis, who want to see the structure preserved, have agreed to donate the building to Indiana Landmarks. In turn, we hope to sell the building for $1 to someone willing and able to tackle the rehabilitation.
Volunteers have already conducted several cleanup days at the building and plan to schedule a “brick brigade” to sort and stack bricks and other debris from the collapsed section. The Save the Koerner Block Committee welcomes people to attend its next meeting, 6 p.m. on February 28, at the Birdseye Town Hall, 103 State Road 64. Or you can follow the group’s progress on Facebook.
If you have questions about the building and the stabilization, contact Greg Sekula, 812-284-4534, firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a contribution to the project, visit the Donate page and write “Koerner Block” in the comments field, or mail a check to Indiana Landmarks, 1201 Central Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46202, noting Koerner Block in the memo line.
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