Community remembers historic building in downtown Amarillo before demolition

KFDA Demolition of downtown building KFDA

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - A downtown building where decade of local employees use to work is being demolished and many are feeling emotional about it.

“It breaks my heart. Yeah, I felt like I grew up here. This was our second family. We actually became family because we worked so closely together. 28 years of my life was spent here. It’s home, it was home,” said Rita Eakes, a former employee of the building.

Built-in 1944, it’s a building that was home away from home for many who worked and lived in Amarillo — starting as a two-story building for Palo Duro Insurance Company, growing in the companies based out of it, including Western National Life for many years and American International Group (AIG).

Many are coming out to the construction site today to take pictures or in some cases, take pieces of what was left of the building.

“She worked on the third floor — lots of good memories here. I would come down on Saturdays, go up to the third floor and type and work with her, play office. My grandmother actually worked in the snack bar, the break room for a few weeks. It’s just a big part of history,” said Suzy Whisenhunt, whose mother and grandmother worked in the building.

The building was purchased by Happy State Bank, but with the demolition of it, many people are left asking what is going to be built there.

“Parking is always an issue in downtown Amarillo. We will probably use some of it for parking, probably put a little park there as well. Ultimately can expand if we need that ground, but we’re in Amarillo to stay. It’s a great place for us right next door, and that old building just needed to come down,” said J. Pat Hickman, CEO of Happy State Bank.

While it is a bittersweet moment, most are happy for the future of downtown.

“As we’re trying to develop, get more people to come downtown the more welcoming appearance we can have with green space, lights, adequate parking, all those different things, it just makes a big difference peoples willingness to come downtown,” said Beth Duke, executive director of Center City.

“It’s for good, but a lot of people my age it’s hard to see some of the old buildings coming down and making room for other things, but it is what it is,” said Whisenhunt.

Even if the building wouldn’t have been demolished, there is no way a company could have worked out of it due to safety reasons.

“The building was strong. There was a ton of asbestos in it. There were all kinds of issues there. There was not a sprinkler system in it, and to go in and bring that up to code and do all the things that you would’ve had to do to it was going to be cost prohibited,” said Hickman.

Copyright 2019 KFDA. All rights reserved.