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Picturing the Past 168: The day they took old Dixie down

Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2012, at 12:35 PM

The Dixie Hotel being demolished in June 1978. (T-G file photo)
A crowd gathered in front of Pope's Cafe in early June 1978 as the wrecking ball tore apart the old Dixie Hotel. The landmark, which had stood on the north side of the Shelbyville square since the early 1900s, was being demolished for the new Peoples National Bank (not today's Peoples Bank).

By the late 1970s the Dixie had deteriorated badly. I remember being inside it and noticing that it appeared to be shabby and smelled. There was also a wooden addition to the back that, for several years before the demolition, looked as if it was ready to fall to pieces.

I also found quite a few negatives of the old Peoples Bank in its last few months on Depot Street. I'll post some interior views soon.

I see the old hotel building as it was and think of the old Bedford County Hospital and Central High School buildings, steadily deteriorating.

Actually the CHS building was deteriorating when I attended in the mid-1970s -- and it still had 30 more years to go as a middle school -- but that's another story. I thought it was such a old building then when it was only about 35 to 38 years old; I don't think of a 35-year-old building as "old" today. Maybe it was because building styles, outside and inside, had changed so much .

The original buildings of today's Central High is 35 years old now; I wonder if today's students think of it as "old"?

Picturing the Past is featured regularly in this blog. Reader contributions are welcome.

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I love it when I see old, historical buildings preserved and put to active use.

I have no idea how much it costs to maintain and upgrade buildings compared to destructing and re-building but it seems such a waste of history as well as material.

-- Posted by stevemills on Thu, Nov 15, 2012, at 9:34 AM

I watched part of that demolition. I recall thinking that it was a shame that it could not have been preserved somehow, but at the same time was eager to see the new bank being built. I was also at the auction of interior furnishings and other items in the old Dixie Hotel. I was absolutely fascinated by the ornate construction of the huge mirrored bar. I do hope it was purchased by someone who intended to restore and reuse it.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Fri, Nov 16, 2012, at 12:25 AM

Buildings act as living things and if left unattended, die a slow, painful, death. I attended Harris Middle School and it is a shame the grand building is still going unused. The current trend in urban design is to transform these places into new, creative uses instead of demolishing them. Urban renewal is even more important in this era of enviromental stewardship and awareness. Seems the old HMS buidling would be a great mixed-use business incubator with its large square footage, multiple rooms, elevator, and layout. Perhaps make the lower level the new Senior Citizens Center with its large commerical kitchen and meeting rooms and turn the upper floors/annex into age-restricted apartments? Location of a satellite library? The same can be applied to the old hospital. I know of a city (Jamestown, ND) near me is currently transforming their old hospital into a senior citizens center, day care, and multiple uses. The ideas are endless!

-- Posted by southernsioux on Fri, Nov 16, 2012, at 10:34 AM

Johnny Cash's video of his famous song Sunday Morning Coming Down started with a man inside one of the rooms at the hotel.

What other events or famous people staying there can readers add.

-- Posted by bomelson on Sat, Nov 17, 2012, at 2:47 PM

Tim, I'd guess the mirrored bar was purchased. Along with the many photos of the demolition was another envelope full of photo negatives of furniture taken from the hotel, probably for a pre-auction advertisement. I may end up posting one or more of those.

-- Posted by David Melson on Sat, Nov 17, 2012, at 2:49 PM

I'd like to see those David. Thanks.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Sun, Nov 18, 2012, at 6:25 PM

@ bomelson:

Bo, if I remember correctly, during the shooting of that video, police were dispatched to the Third Natinal Bank building because of "suspicious" activity on the roof. Turns out it was the camera crew shooting some of the video footage. It was a great video by the way. From what I understand, it carries the distinction of being known as the very first actual country music video in that it was the first time the underlying theme of the song represented was depicted on film.

-- Posted by Tim Lokey on Sun, Nov 18, 2012, at 6:36 PM

Tim, police were dispatched to a loan company directly by the hotel. I knew the film crew and and was able to clear the culprits. They said Johnny Cash really had a big laugh over the incident.

-- Posted by bomelson on Tue, Nov 20, 2012, at 3:40 PM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.