|By G. Michael Dobbs|
HOLYOKE The end may be in sight for a building that played a key role in the city's social history. City Engineer Matthew Sokop has prepared a report on The Bud at 30 John St. that directs the city to make the building secure and safe or tear it down.
Sokop told The Chicopee Herald that the building has sustained much water damage due to a leaking roof. Some of the wooden floors are buckling, and the second floor ceiling is falling. There is considerable mold growth in the building as well as feces from birds. The fire escape is also in bad shape, he added.
"It's been abandoned for quite some time," Sokop said.
Building Commissioner Paul Healey said he has tried to contact the owner of the building, James Hendricks of Pennsylvania, but the letters are returned unclaimed. Hendricks owes the city $189,000 in back taxes.
Hendricks was the last of a long list of owners of the building since 1976 when the late Wilbur Murray sold it to James Rust. Hendricks bought the building in 1987 and attempted to run a bar and restaurant operation as well as rent the building to others. The last establishment was a Caribbean restaurant in the mid-1990s.
A spokesperson for the City Law Department said the city has started legal proceedings to seize the property for back taxes.
Healey said that once he orders the building to be demolished, it will come down.
The three story brick building was first a tavern and rest stop along the Boston to Albany stage lines and built in the 1870s, according to information in the files of the Holyoke Public Library History Room.
Patrick J. Murray bought the building in 1903 and by 1913 it was known as "The Bud," due to the tavern being the first local distributor of Anheuser-Busch beer.
A sign, now faded, on the back of the building reads "This is not a bank. This is The Bud." Murray convinced local banks to have hours available to the city's factory workers by cashing their checks himself with silver dollars. The influx of silver dollars to local merchants showed the banks the importance and size of the blue-collar workers.
Prohibition didn't stop The Bud. Murray opened a speakeasy on the second floor of the building from 1920 until 1933.
Patrick's son Wilbur added numerous distinct touches to the establishment. After seeing a movie in which Fred Astaire is seen dancing on the ceiling, he added plaster casts of shoes and bare feet to the ceiling of the first floor bar. There was a nautical motif on the first floor dining area that created the feel of eating aboard a ship.
The brickwork on the building's exterior is also unique with hearts and clubs decorating windowsills.
With its long history, The Bud inspired several unproven stories including that a tunnel connected the basement of the building to City Hall. The secret connection allowed elected officials to go into The Bud unnoticed.
The spirit of Wilbur Murray also allegedly haunts the Bud. Who knows what his reaction will be when the wrecking ball levels his beloved building.