Week after massive blaze, historic Petersburg building demolished

PETERSBURG, Va. -- The operator of this crane slowly brought down what was left of the historic building formerly known as Steward Luggage. More recently the building was transformed as the High Street Lofts.

Demolition proceeded on the front side of the apartment complex on Wednesday, a week after a massive fire blazed through the building. A bridge that connected the Seward Luggage Factory to the High Street Lofts collapsed in the fire and originally funneled smoke and flames into the building.

The burned building was being converted from the factory to an additional loft/apartment building as part of a larger complex.

Petersburg fire

Architectural Historian Willie Graham believes the City moved too quickly on bringing the historic building down.

"They should have propped up what was left and spent a little more time trying to figure out how to stabilize what was there, rebuild off what was there,” Graham said, aware that the building suffered extensive fire and water damage.

"I've saved buildings that were in a lot worse shape than what they are doing here,” he said.

Some tenants are being forced to move out of adjacent building, and said off camera that they weren't given much notice.

The High Street Lofts say the decision was made by City Inspectors to have the building vacated during renovation of the damage caused by fire and water.

"For the safety of our tenants you know they need to have an empty building," said Rhonda Harris, High Street Lofts leasing agent. '