The sound of crashing bricks and snapping lumber filled the Monday morning air at Butler Children’s Park in West Plains as an excavator made quick work of the old yellow house in the center of the park.
The scene at the park was subdued, only a few onlookers stopping by briefly to watch the proceedings with a sense of melancholic curiosity, and for some, a sense of relief that things were finally moving forward.
Known as the Parkside House, the former Robert Sanford Hogan home, which stood for over 113 years, has been a focal point of local controversy since the city moved its Park and Recreation Department offices out of the building in 2013.
Following a citizen’s initiative petition to save the house that failed during last November’s election, an agreement was reached in January between the city and the Friends of Parkside, a citizen’s group formed for the expressed purpose of saving and using the house.
The agreement allowed the city to remove certain items from the house for public auction and then move forward with demolition. The auction, held Feb. 4, raised over $8,000 for the city, which, according to city officials, was placed in the city’s general fund.
Simpson Excavating of West Plains was awarded the bid to take the house down at $1,150 per day. The company has had some experience taking down old houses; in November it was hired by Ozark Action to take down a house at 919 Grace Ave.
City officials estimate it shouldn’t take long for the house to be completely gone and for the park to reopen.
“We’re looking at the having the house gone in a couple of days and once we’ve determined the area to be safe, we will open the park,” said City Community Services Director Todd Shanks. “I think people are really going to like what we are going to do with the park.”
According to Shanks, after all the debris has been removed the city will begin the construction of the splash pad, which is planned to be open in time for this summer. The city is also pursuing a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to help pay for an all-inclusive playground to be added to the park.
The park will remain closed until the city is confident any hazards to the public have been removed and the play areas deemed safe for children.