One of downtown's iconic structures is about to disappear like the pattern in a five-and-dime kaleidoscope.
The city codes office has red-tagged the former Woolworth Building on 11th Avenue, giving owner Irv Seltzer 30 days to raze it.
In contrast to a similar red-tagging in 2006, when Seltzer sidestepped demolition with stop-gap roof repairs, he plans to go through with it now.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
The Flower Shoppe and Woolworth buildings sit vacant on 11th Avenue between 13th and 14th streets.
"I don't believe the building is economically salvageable," he said.
Otherwise, he'd need to hire a structural engineer and come up with a salvage plan, said codes Director Mark Ernest.
The job could cost $200,000 to $300,000, Ernest estimated.
A closer look
* The demolition of the Woolworth building downtown could figure into potential projects involving the vacant adjacent McCrory and Flower Shoppe buildings, according to Center City Coordinator Bob Scholl.
* A potential out-of-state buyer is contemplating separate renovation projects for those buildings that could include homes on the upper floors of the McCrory building, Scholl said.
* A restaurant on the first floor of the McCrory building might seek space next door for a patio, he suggested.
* The Paronish family owns the Flower Shoppe building, and First National Bank owns the McCrory building, he said.
The justification for the red tag is the condition of the roof, which has holes, sagging sections and a small tree growing from it - all visible from a nearby parking garage, Ernest said.
The five-and-ten was in business 84 years, closing in 1994 when the parent company shuttered or redesigned 970 outlets, according to Mirror files.
It remodeled the Altoona store in 1953, making it "self-service," with a glass front, "providing a view of the streamlined interior to prospective patrons."
The company remodeled again in 1959 at a cost of $112,000, creating "mass selling displays of exceptional value merchandise," including furniture, electric appliances and luggage.
A look through the windows now shows empty floor space, debris and police tape near the old central stairway to the basement.
Jane Eamigh, 84, of Altoona went to the store often during the 1970s for chocolate soda and a hot dog at the lunch counter and "little things" like nail polish, curlers and tea towels.
Jason Charlton of Hollidaysburg, who managed the store for 18 years until it closed, remembers chatting with residents of the downtown towers who came as often as three times a day for coffee, pie and ice cream, "the high point of their day."
Seltzer said he's not disputing the order to raze, but he said he could have used more time to figure out how to save the metal-tile-on-brick facade so a developer could incorporate it into a new structure for historic authenticity, he said.
The demolition will create a 9,000-square-foot lot between the McCrory building and London Wolfe Photography.
It will "certainly improve the appearance overall of downtown," said Center City Coordinator Bob Scholl.