BERTRAM, Texas (KXAN) — A historic Bertram building that dates back to the late 1800s has been torn down after straight line winds Monday night caused much of the structure to topple, posing significant safety hazards for pedestrians and drivers.
Based on its initial investigation, the National Weather Service said it was not a tornado that damaged a mile’s worth of buildings in the town of approximately 1,500 residents, but powerful wind gusts. City officials report no injuries.
Even still, the A.B. McGill building was considered an unofficial historical landmark, and its demolition brings a somber mood to many of the people living here.
Noelle Paulette, who lives in Austin, said it was her great-great-grandfather, Thomas Reed, who constructed the building and owned the general store that was housed there for many years. She brought a photo album with her family’s genealogy, photographs and newspaper clippings to show off before the building was torn down.
“This is my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Reed,” Paulette said as she combed through the pictures. “And he moved here from Arkansas and started the store with his sons.”
Newspaper clippings from 1993, when the historical building last operated as an actual storefront, commemorated the structure for its 111th anniversary. Historians say the store was “physically moved to Bertram in 1882 to be on the Austin and Northwestern Railroad line.”
Paulette, who does not own the building, says she has been working with officials to reclaim family possession, but had been stuck in the negotiation process. Paulette says she will continue working to claim the historical antiques that lay inside, like an antique safe and the authentic floor tiling that survived in the entranceway.
“I was hoping to purchase the building and bring it back to life,” Paulette said. “I get really excited about the geneology and the history and the community!”
Others, like city council member John Baladez, said he will miss the emotional context the building brought to its residents. He said seeing the structures never failed to remind him that he was home, even after several years serving in the military.
“When you see [the damage] first hand, it’s sickening. Because I grew up here and those have been a staple in this community for as long as I can remember. It hurts,” Baladez said.
Even still, the council member offered a statement of hope as he considered how the townspeople will work to clean up the damage the storm left behind.
“We’re going to get through it. Everyone is pulling together. If you walk around, you’ll see people coming out to help,” Baladez said. “Bertram is a strong community, and it’s all about our people.”