(From Olean Times Herald, April 15, 2015 - Online edition)

Church, museum demolished

An excavator tears down the rear portion of the former Belmont Presbyterian Church on Saturday morning while demolishing the long-standing structure across from the Allegany County Building on Table Knoll.

AllegCoMuseum building-Braack-Photo


Photo Courtesy of Craig Braack  

BELMONT — The former Belmont Presbyterian Church, a relic that stood atop Table Hill in Belmont for more than 125 years, was leveled in less than an hour Saturday.

Allegany County Department of Public Works employees used an excavator and other machinery to demolish the previous place of worship — it was also the home for the Allegany County Museum for more than 40 years — located across from the County Office Building at the corner of Wells Lane. Department heads, a single community member and a couple of others looked on from a short distance away, according to recently retired county historian Craig Braack who also watched at 7:45 a.m. as the building taken down.

“When you’ve spent 28 years of your life in a building and then have to see it come down, it kind of tears at your heartstrings a little bit, but the building had to come down,” Braack said, noting excessive water damage to the basement interior from decades of flooding made the structure unsound. “The county spent thousands of dollars trying to remediate that flooding issue to no avail. The beams started to rot, the building started to settle and shift and then the roof started to leak.

“The building served the community of Belmont very, very well, but it was shot.”

The demolished pieces — minus some windows, copper piping and wood — were taken to the county landfill.

The Allegany County Board of Legislators last year accepted a proposal from James Braunscheidel, owner of Scott Brown Cooperative, to pay the county $1,500 to take the nine stained-glass windows and other materials from the building.

The decision to remove the structure came after almost a year of legislators trying to determine the fate of hundreds of artifacts inside. It had served as the county museum from the 1970s until 2013. Last spring, the board approved moving the artifacts into a building at the county fairgrounds.

“Anything inside that building that was relevant to Allegany County was kept, and anything that wasn’t relevant was given away,” Braack said.

The hole left behind from removing the building from the site will be filled in with concrete will become a parking lot, which will alleviate the longtime parking issue that exists for those working in the buildings that surround the lot, Braack said.

“All good things must end. It’s time to move on,” he said. “A new era is beginning.”