1 neighborhood, 1 building demolished, 1 building razed, 1 ATF investigation
By Eric Valentine
Built just in 1982, the now razed-by-fire Croy Street Exchange building wasn’t on any national or local registry, but it served as a landmark fitting into the historic character of old town Hailey for four decades. Nothing could be saved by firefighters who fought the blaze valiantly, but they did manage to protect the rest of the block from burning to the ground.
Built in the mid-1930s, the old U.S. Forest Service warehouse just down the street from the Exchange was protected by the city, to a degree. But parking needs next door, lead paint in the structure, and failed efforts to move it to a new site led to its demise. Last Monday, crews demolished it, but not before the Public Works Department was able to preserve the building’s unique doors, well known for their green asterisk-shaped moldings on plain white wood backdrop.
In just one week, across just one block, Valley residents got a taste for just how fragile an area’s history can be.
“My heart is broken because the intent was really promising,” Hailey Mayor Martha Burke said regarding the Croy Street Exchange Building and ownership’s plans to convert it into workforce housing.
Last year, several tenants had been occupying the building co-owned by District 26 Senator Michelle Stennett, but in a letter dated Dec. 31, tenants were instructed to vacate by Jan. 30. It wasn’t warmly received by some tenants, but the City of Hailey seemed likely to be on board given the dearth of housing that’s affordable for the working class. Planning & Zoning was slated to review the latest designs next month.
“Hopefully, there’s another new opportunity there for housing,” Burke said.
Stennett was asked about any future plans for the property, but did not return phone calls or emails before press deadline Tuesday.
As for the Forest Service buildings, Burke had similar sentiment.
“When we first moved here in ’73, ’74, that was the center of town. I used to tell my kids Smokey the Bear lives there,” Burke said. “I loved that complex, the huge evergreens. It’s a tragedy any time we can’t reuse or repurpose today. It’s the right thing for history, it’s the right thing for the environment.”
Burke said she was hopeful that the other Forest Service buildings on the complex would never meet the same fate of the larger warehouse structure that fell last week.
“They’re not the prettiest buildings right now, but they have a history worth keeping,” Burke said.
What the ATF?
State Fire Marshal Knute Sandahl confirmed Monday that he has brought in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to support the investigation on the Croy Street Exchange fire. Lesser-known fact alert: the ATF is officially the ATFE—the E stands for explosives.
Sandahl did not say whether there was any suspicion of an explosive device and that details were still actively being investigated.
“We’re following up with a couple of leads now,” Sandahl said in regards to the investigation overall.
He added that it’s not uncommon to call in the ATF since they have certified fire investigators.
“When we saw the size and the scope of the fire we knew we’d need support,” Sandahl said. “An investigation like that can be quite taxing to local fire departments and law enforcement. Additional resources are part of what the ATF provides.”
Sandahl could not provide a timeline for when the investigation may be wrapped up.
“I’ve been telling people we’re working fast, but if we’re done in two weeks, I’d be very surprised,” Sandahl said.