By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—The Fred Harvey Building on West First Street was built at the end of World War I in 1918.
It’s seen presidents come and go. The concrete structure overlooked Sand Creek when soldiers listened to the call of the “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” during World War II, stood as a sentinel as hippies grew long hair and wore peace signs, and its large glass windows gazed upon decades of the oldest Mexican-American Fastpitch Softball Tournament across the street.
Now it’s coming down, and demolition continued this week. Much of it, the actual concrete structure itself, will go back from whence it came, as it’s being recycled back into other concrete.
The owner of the building is Builders Concrete, and doing the demolition is Goering Enterprise of Newton.
Demolition started on May 3, said Goering Enterprise owner Scott Goering, and it should be done the week of May 17.
“We had some machine trouble, and we’re waiting on parts that are supposed to come tomorrow,” he said on May 6, adding they were clearing some things out with smaller machines that day.
They planned to have the big machines come in this week to knock the concrete down.
Goering said the building, even though it has the word “historical” on the building with its name, is not on any historic registries.
After it closed as the Fred Harvey Farm, the 56,000-square-foot building had a restaurant at one point in the basement.
Others had planned to do things with the building, like one man was going to build apartments there, but nothing was done.
“It’s been ‘gonna been’ about a lot of different things—restaurants, apartments, all sorts of stuff,” Goering said.
Doing anything with it was cost prohibitive to folks, since it needed to be made handicapped accessible and brought up to code, with plumbing and electricity put in.
“Everything’s gone,” Goering said. “The intent now is to just be an empty lot for [Builders Concrete’s] equipment or whatever they choose to utilize it for. The space will benefit [Builders Concrete] more than that building.”
He said it used to house a number of businesses, including a carpet gallery, a storage building for Fred Harvey and a manufacturing location for Full Vision.
The building has sat vacant for several years, if not decades.
Through time, it housed a variety of other businesses.
“That whole area was called the Fred Harvey Farm,” said Kris Schmucker, curator at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives. “It provided food and drink for all the Fred Harvey places. There were two buildings there.”
The north building is the one being torn down, and the south building dealt with dairy matters, Schmucker said, adding the north building bottled Coca-Cola and processed chicken.
“Fred Harvey was one of the few places, maybe the only one, outside of the company of Coca-Cola, to make and bottle Coca-Cola,” she said.
Fred Harvey’s name was on the bottle, and they sold it on the trains, at newsstands and their diners.
“Every six months, they had to be tested to make sure it was up to Coca-Cola standards,” Schmucker said. “They had the live chickens on the third floor, they killed ’em on the bottom floor, and the second floor was divided—on one side, you had the poultry, and the other side was the carbonation-processing plant.”
Schmucker said they stopped using the building as a Fred Harvey business in 1960.
“Fred Harvey had moved his whole operation, including the farm, in 1905 to Newton,” she added. “All the food-related production stuff came here,” she said.
Creating the concrete structure
Goering said the north building was hand formed and poured, using cranes and a large bucket. The crane lifted the bucket and poured the concrete.
“It’s very solid,” Goering said, adding some of the other drawbacks to reopening the building included no parking space and dust from Builders Concrete getting on people’s vehicles.
“You weigh it out, and you get minuses, minuses, minuses,” Goering said. “It’s fun learning the history of stuff, but it’s had a good history