Understanding the demolition of the historic Kress Building in downtown Texarkana

Broad Street is closed off around the Kress Building in downtown Texarkana. (photo by Erin Rogers | Txk Today)

Recently, the city of Texarkana has commenced a four month long demolition process to the historic Kress Building on Broad Street in downtown Texarkana. It was built sometime around 1909 and initially had a second building that occupied the site. The original burned down and two years later the current Kress began operating in 1935. The budget for this demolition is $400,000.

Samuel Kress founded S.H. Kress & Co. in 1896 and had more than 250 Kress stores across 29 states. The buildings’ designs were mostly Art Deco and inspired by the Gothic Revival, according to the National Building Museum.

The Kress buildings are considered the original “five and dimes,” according to Main Street Texarkana director, Ina McDowell. These stores were considered a luxury during the Great Depression. The current Texarkana Kress building had three stories and the bottom floor served as a soda shop for some time and seems to have been used during the city’s earliest development.

In 1964 Genesco, Inc. purchased the Kress business and began liquidating the Kress properties, according to David Orr, Director of Planning and Community Development. Most of the stores were closed or sold by 1980. The Texarkana Kress Store was officially condemned in 1979 and has remained vacant since it was sold by Genesco, Inc.

“The city immediately plans to remove contaminants such as asbestos, lead-based paint and other safety concerns first. The long term plan includes returning the remediated site to private landowners for future reuse or to retain the site for public reuse.”

He explained that the City has an environmental consulting team that includes Mark Thacker, an AIA certified historic preservation architect, that helped with preparing for the demolition process. The plan is to use historical pieces of the facade that can be stored for potential future use.

Orr explained that the Kress will have to be taken down in several phases, predominately by hand to ensure worker and public safety. “ A structural engineer will make determinations throughout the process based on safety conditions as to which components of the building may remain. “

The condition of the Kress building has deteriorated so badly that it has adversely affected neighboring businesses. “ The City has received numerous complaints regarding the condition of the property and concerns regarding safety. The front sidewalk has been compromised since November 2014 as a result of debris from the building facade.”

The City of Texarkana wants to emphasize that the best preventative method for preserving significant historical structures from becoming deteriorated and compromised is to take early action. Orr explained that, “ with the Kress building condemned in 1979 and ordered to be demolished in 2002, it leaves very few options decades later.”

“Maintenance and repair of the roofs for historic structures is especially important. It is commonly the first issue and once the roof is no longer maintained it compromises the rest of the structure. Although the building may appear salvageable from the street view, many times without a roof the demolition process has already started internally.”

This is why it is essential to take precautions early on. The City appealed to the Texas Historic Commission in 2015 but due to the state of the building it was no longer eligible for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places, making potential reservation funds miniscule.

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