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McCabe Building nears deadline for destruction

By Bianca Montes
Oct. 9, 2013 at 5:09 a.m.
Updated Oct. 10, 2013 at 5:10 a.m.

A 105-year-old building, formerly a grocery store, on Wheeler Street in Victoria is scheduled to be demolished to make way for the expansion of Wholesale Tire Co. Because the building is considered historic, there was a 60-day moratorium on the demolition. The moratorium ends Saturday.

J.H. McCabe Building

Constructed in 1908

Entered the National Register of Historic Places in 1986

Had an apartment upstairs and a store downstairs

When he was old enough, Joseph Wearden's parents gave him $10 and a suitcase before sending him off to make something of his life.

The year was 1917, and the Columbus native soon found himself at the front door of the McCabe Building, a vast structure in the then northernmost part of Victoria, where he signed a lease for $360 a year and became a grocer.

"You had to make your own way back then," his nephew said. "Once they settled, they would send the suitcase back for the next child to use."

The North Wheeler Street store that helped Wearden declare his emancipation almost 100 years ago now sits abandoned, wasted and awaiting its soon-to-be demolishment.

The 60-day moratorium put in place to respect the building's placement in the National Register of Historic Homes ends Saturday, and the permit to tear the building down can be obtained at that time, said Monica Priddy, Victoria development coordinator.

The owners of a neighboring tire shop told the Advocate in August they planned to raze the lot to expand.

"Even though it's deteriorated, it should be saved," said James Wearden, a realtor and nephew of Joseph Wearden. "It's classic. I hate to see that go."

Jeff Wright, executive director of Victoria Preservation Inc., said the McCabe Building harkens back to a different era in Victoria and that an unaltered two-story commercial construction is a rare find.

"Our historic buildings tell the story of Victoria and its people," he said. "When we lose them, we lose a little piece of who we are and where we've been."

For Matt Zepeda, 68, the McCabe Building represents the hard work and sheer determination of his father, Refugio Zepeda Jr., who after working on the railroad for more than 38 years achieved his lifetime goal when he opened Zepeda's Grocery from 1962 to 1974 in the storefront.

During that time, Matt Zepeda was an officer with the Victoria Police Department and recalls spending his days off - and just about every moment - working in the store with his mom and dad.

Among his memories, his favorites include sweeping the floors with an oil and sawdust mix to keep the dust off the shelves and watching his children swindle pockets full of candy from the shop, "I'd tell them to empty their pockets at the counter," he recalled, "and they'd look at grandpa with those big, puppy dog eyes, and he'd just let them get away with it."

According to Victoria city records, the McCabe Building was built in 1908 and although it changed hands several times throughout its history, it remained a grocery store until 1981, when Gilbert Ramon purchased the structure as a residence.

Building ownership was transferred July 29 from Ramon to MMS Tires of Victoria and has an assessed value of $147,760.

At the time, Wright said he and his colleagues with the Victoria Preservation Inc. researched the property to see whether it was a candidate for preservation.

As with most projects of its kind, Wright said, "Cost is the greatest enemy."

While the sheer size of the structure makes it a significant undertaking, Wright said the biggest issue plaguing the building is a faulty foundation.

"Moving the structure is impractical, and the cost of preserving it in place would be too much for the current owner to absorb, even with grant assistance," he said. "Some of the same issues that we see here led to the demise of the old Calhoun Bakery building on North Wheeler roughly 10 years ago."

However, when it comes to preserving the building, he said it all comes down to property right issues; there is no law preventing someone from tearing down a building on their property, he said.

The 60-day moratorium is a city of Victoria policy enforced when a demolition permit is requested for a historic structure.

"None of us want to see the building torn down, but there did not seem to be a path forward," Wright said.

To respect the building's integrity, Chad Koehl, general manager for the tire company, said the contractor clearing the lot will salvage all the wood to be used for something useful instead of throwing it away.

Koehl said, "Anything salvageable, we will save."

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