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Saga of downtown building nears an end

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A trackhoe ripped into the southwest corner of the Anciso building located on South Sixth Street at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

It is going to take several days for the dust to settle from the demolition of the 94-year-old Anciso building in downtown Sunnyside.

Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) as interested bystanders and news media stood by marking the removal of yet another downtown landmark, another chapter of Sunnyside's history came to a close. The crumbling of the decades old brick building brings to a close a nearly three-year battle to have the building removed from the downtown core after being condemned in 2002.

The building, owned by the Roy Anciso family, was declared unsafe in April 2002, after city engineers discovered the south wall of the building was bulging to an alarming degree. The building's occupants, which included a dress shop and a beauty salon, vacated the building not long after the building was deemed unstable.

But the removal of the tenants was only the first of a long series of ordeals for the Anciso family, which was never able to put together the necessary finances to affect repairs or its eventual removal.

In early 2003, the Sunnyside City Council began to question and then to demand that the building's vacant status change. Anciso told the Council that early engineering reports weren't favorable.

Anciso, who struggled to put together a plan to save the building, soon learned that those efforts would prove too expensive due to years of disrepair.

For a time it looked as though the facade of the building might be saved, but even those plans went by the wayside as engineers determined that even the first floor was beyond repair.

By late 2003, the City Council became insistent that something be done about the building, while the Anciso family's hands remained tied as family probate issues hampered removal efforts.

Finally, early in 2004, the City Council took on the removal efforts, calling for abatement of the property, which led to Tuesday's lowering of the demolition boom. This past December contracts were finally signed to move ahead with the building's removal. The plan to remove the building was delayed until after the Christmas holiday.

Throughout the past three years, stout iron poles have propped up the south wall, blocking the South Sixth Street alley, hampering its use by emergency services or near-by business owner Fred Alviso, who owns an appliance business just to the south of the ill-fated building.

The two-story building, which fell upon bad times in the past decade, has given starts to many Sunnyside businesses. The street side space has been home to real estate offices, restaurants, meat markets, dress shops, while its second story has housed fraternal lodges, including the city's first Masonic lodge and later the Eagles lodge and even a karate school for a time.

Perhaps the most famous of its occupants was one time Sunnyside Mayor Lloyd Smith, who had real estate offices in the building throughout most of the 1950s and 1960s.

It was his name which was painted on the south side of the brick building for all to see until yesterday's destruction cast it in the rumble.

Before yesterday's knockdown of the building could begin, the Russell Crane Services crew worked to first stabilize the south wall of the building in preparation for tearing into the building. The entire building is expected to be completely torn down by the end of the week.

Chris Purdom, the job supervisor, said the demolition of the Anciso building was one of the worst takedowns he has encountered in 27 years of building removal work.

The top floor was leaning two inches to the south, Purdom said. He said the lack of structural integrity made the project difficult for his crew. Added to the project's complications is that crews have to avoid damaging the building's north wall, which is connected to a neighboring building, which houses H&H Furniture and several smaller businesses.

"There are a lot of live wires and gas lines to deal with," said Purdom.

He said he hopes to wrap up the project by next Thursday. The fate of the future vacant lot is still up in the air, but buyers are already beginning to line up, according to local land agents.

While the 500 block of South Sixth Street is expected to remained closed most of this week, the businesses in the block remain open.

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