The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 15, 2014

Wally Kennedy: ‘Green elephant’ could be on last leg

JOPLIN, Mo. — When I saw some workers outside of the former H.E. Shank Fruit Co. building at 1209 S. Main St., I thought someone had decided to restore the building.

Unfortunately, that is not what is going on.

I have described this building as Main Street’s “green elephant.” It’s big, and its color is either sea-foam green or turquoise, and, like a white elephant, no one knows what to do with it.

Last week, some concrete blocks that had been used to enclose some windows on the Main Street side fell out. That prompted the people who manage the property to cover the window openings and erect a fence on the Main Street side for safety reasons.

This property is part of the estate of the late LaVerne Miller, who owned the Joplin Flea Market at 12th Street and Virginia Avenue. Before her death, she had acquired 52 pieces of property that are now managed by three trustees.

I was told by one of those trustees that Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, the city’s master developer, had inquired about the property six months ago.

The plan was to remodel it and rent it. The building is structurally sound, but it would take at least $2 million to bring it back. But the trustees were not ready to get rid of it at that time.

I did a smidgen of research on this building and found a newspaper clipping from Nov. 4, 1947, that showed the city was letting the voters decide the future of the City Market property at 12th and Main. With voter approval, it would be sold for $50,000. The clipping said the building at that time was 33 years old. If that information is correct, it means it was constructed in about 1914.

I can remember going there as a child when it was Shank Fruit Co. The produce was displayed on slanted tables, and you could buy as much as you wanted of whatever was in season. Across the street at that time was Shank’s Army Surplus. These businesses were connected to the same family.

When things start falling off of a building, the risk for the owners becomes too great. You either fix it or get rid of it. It is likely this building will be demolished. I hope that doesn’t happen.

It might be old and ugly, but it is a link to our past. We have already lost too many of those.

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