Historic West End building set for demolition this week

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Over the years, there have been many high-profile fires that have heavily damaged or destroyed historic buildings in Punxsutawney, but a fire that destroyed a building Feb. 16 has taken some more of history with it.

This time, it’s a part of Clayville history.

There was the Dec. 24, 1971, fire that destroyed the Jordan Furniture Company, Freelee’s Store and other buildings along East Mahoning and North Jefferson streets, as well as a Nov. 16, 1982, fire on Thanksgiving at the Findley Hotel.

Another landmark building that is about to be lost due to a fire is the former Pape’s Beer Distributor at the corner of West Mahoning and Foundry streets.

Recently, the building had apartments that housed college students, and Feb. 16, was heavily damaged by a grease fire that began on a kitchen stove.

Peter P. Pape, who has owned the building since 1980, and the beer distributor until 1993, decided that it would cost too much to rebuild the structure.

“I’ve owned numerous buildings and rented to college students for many years,” he said. “My biggest fear was of fire and the possibility that someone may lose their life in a blaze.”

Pape said he always told renters if there is a fire, just get out; everything else can be replaced.

Despite the fact the actual fire had been knocked down, the flames spread into the wall and the roof, causing extensive damage.

Pape purchased the building from Arnold and Leonard Rubin, who stored
vehicles there for their car dealership across from the Punxy Plaza.
Pape’s original beer distributor was located in the plaza, which was later sold. He then opened a drive-thru distributor in the building on Foundry Street

In the 1890s, the building was a livery stable/delivery service and once housed a barber shop.

Following the fire that destroyed the Punxsutawney Casket Company’s building on North Chestnut Street, coffins were also stored in the building for eight years.

Pape said he and his wife, Elaine, were on a cruise the night of the fire, and his daughter, Mary Lou Stockdale, finally reached him with the details about the blaze.

“I was happy no one was injured, but it’s going to cost too much to repair the structure, and at my age, it’s too much work, so I’ve hired Dave Weaver to tear it down this week,” he said.

Pape said the roof damage was devastating, and the replacement estimate was in the six-figure range.

The West End of Punxsy, known as Clayville, was established as a borough in 1874, and in 1907, Punxsutawney and Clayville consolidated.