Sometime around dawn on Sunday, over a century of memories came crashing down at 20017 N Main St. An era of an iconic building on Old Town Cornelius’ busiest intersection has come to a close with the demolished “old bank” building. The Cornelius Bank was founded in 1906 by the Beard family and served the emerging Cornelius area for many years, even surviving the Great Depression when other banks in the surrounding area did not. The building was also the site of the Cornelius Mill Store. Multiple different businesses occupied the space over the years including most recently Memories Pawn Shop and Blumengarten Florist. This building was home to many historic businesses over the years, Jack Conard Jr recalls, “Cornelius Cafe moved from its location in Brick Row to this corner, The Cornelius Savings & Loan moved in when the bank moved down the street, in the old days Turner Hardware was here and then later came Kathy’s Video.”
It was a sad moment to say goodbye to this historically significant commercial building in the town center and local historian Jack Conard Jr was on the scene at daybreak to capture the demolition with his camera. Jack is a beloved member of the community who has taken it upon himself as his mission to collect and preserve the memory of Cornelius’ heritage through an extensive photo collection.
The property was sold in April, to Legacy Pointe Properties for $447,500. Quantum Technology plans to build a 9,000 square foot, three-story building, according to owner Adam Jones. Rumor has it there may be a parking deck constructed on the adjoining property in front of Food Lion.
Jamie Rolewicz, one of the owners spoke to members of the Cornelius Historic Preservation Committee on Saturday while he was prepping the demo. He mentioned the preservation of the original bank vault was in the works as well as preservation and re-purposing the compass that was engraved in the entrance-way of the building.
There have been mixed reactions from community members, many who have lived in the area their whole lives and many are echoing a sad sentiment, that building is a cherished piece of their memory. There is a bright side. Betsy Shores, Cornelius resident looks at the development with an optimistic outlook, “In this situation, new is good. That building, like a lot of the buildings in ‘Old Cornelius’ were not maintained. This project will bring revitalization, new businesses and growth. I agree about the character of old buildings, but there is a reason why some buildings are torn down and others are improved. I am excited about the changes coming to Cornelius!.”
Could this happen to other of our cherished historic properties in town? The answer is, yes. Without official landmark designation, property owners have the right to demolish their buildings to rebuild as long as the rebuild plans follow guidelines with our Town’s codes and zoning.
Some buildings, maintaining structural integrity and having significant historical value due to their tie to cultural heritage or to their unique architectural qualities may apply for Historic Landmark designation. Often neglect and disrepair and potentially dangerous conditions can influence an owners decision to tear-down and rebuild. Other instances, rehabilitation and re-purposing are possible. A few great examples of re-purposed buildings in OTC are the recently renovated and designated Sherrill-Robbins house on Zion Ave, Benjamin Brown’s former residence which is now Fork! Restaurant and The Fiddler House, now School of Rock on Catawba Ave.
There are many advantages to Historic Property designation including up to a 50% reduction in property taxes. More information: http://landmarkscommission.org/