Letter to the Editor: Wake Up, Door County

As a frequent visitor and supporter of tourism to Sturgeon Bay (I started in 1964 as a child), I watch and read from afar about your beloved granary and the ensuing battle over its future existence. Please don’t make the same mistake as St. Louis and tear down an irreplaceable landmark. Here is why…

St. Louis erected “The Arena” back in 1929 – the most modern indoor entertainment space of its kind, second only in size to Madison Square Garden in New York City. Over the years it hosted local, regional, national and both minor and major league professional sporting events and was the original home to the St. Louis Blues NHL hockey team. More events included conventions, concerts (Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles and more), horse shows, circuses, NCAA tournaments including the Final Four, ice shows and speedskating competitions.

Affectionately nicknamed “The Old Barn” due to its wooden structure and lamella roof system (also a specialty), the building had a flavor and character all of its own, beloved by fans for exceptional sight lines and the feeling of being totally in the action during an event. It survived many a rafter-shaking rocking concert, a 1959 tornado that caved in part of the roof, and numerous owners.

But in 1994 the Blues hockey team left for a new venue downtown. Under a no-compete clause with this new venue, the building was shuttered. Owned at that time by the city government – leaders had no interest in preserving this fine building with such historical significance and so many memories. They were more interested in a corporate office park.

A developer and other citizens stepped up, made offers to buy the precious “Old Barn.” One was willing to pay the city five years of back taxes, plus an additional $1 million more than the value of the property for ownership and reinvent it into the city’s first aquarium that would generate tax dollars for city coffers. But so sadly, the mayor refused this offer (and others) and the Old Barn was imploded on Feb. 27, 1999.

To this day, the office park has not yet been fully completed.  Construction is ongoing on one additional building. We as a city of St. Louis have lost an architectural wonder, a vibrant and structurally sound landmark that can never be replaced. Many St. Louisans still believe the mayor made an enormous mistake in demolishing this building and dearly miss its unmistakable sight.

So Door County – will you be making the same mistake with the granary that continues to withstand wind, weather and storm by Mother Nature and people? Will you fight for her to stand proudly and become a landmark monument for both citizens and visitors alike?

Mayor Birmingham – are you reading this?  You need to answer the large looming question of why you are going to extreme means to demolish the granary? Be accountable to your citizens and the future of Door County.

A. B. Parker

St. Louis, Mo.

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