Legal order stops work on collapsed buildings

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tension over a wall that a downtown building shared with structures that collapsed in 2006 have resulted in a restraining order and, Tuesday, the sight of the son of a property owner wearing a holstered weapon.

Vicksburg officials said the dispute doesn’t involve any public property and they intend to remain out of the picture.

Warren County Judge Johnny Price granted the court order to Lisa Ashcraft, who, with her husband, Randy, owns the two-story former First Federal Savings and Loan building at 1221 Washington St.

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On adjacent property, workers for Antique Wood and Brick Company of Mississippi, owned by Bill Greenwood, have been removing brick and other materials left when 140-year-old structures at 707-713 Clay St. imploded during renovations on Jan. 25, 2006.

The Ashcraft building is west of the collapsed structures. The collapse broke a hole in an upper-story wall of a building to the east. That hole was bricked up within weeks.

Workers were not on site this morning or midafternoon on Tuesday after Lisa Ashcraft told Price the work resulted in a hole in the shared wall, damaging her property. Removing the brick and other materials from the wall “appears to threaten the structural integrity” and could result in “irreparable injury, damage or loss” to the Ashcraft property, the order says.

The order also says methods used make returning “the property to the same condition it was before the bricks were removed” impossible.

Ashcraft said today she has a list of six individuals and companies she plans to sue as a result of damage to the building. She also has said she had pledges from City Hall that the cleanup work would not be allowed to harm her structure, which she bought from the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau about two years ago.

When they collapsed, the adjacent structures were owned by Preston Reuther and Mary Reuther, who planned an antique mall or consignment shop. That situation also resulted in legal wrangling between the city and property owners regarding whether the buildings should be restored or destroyed.

Tuesday morning, Isaiah Ashcraft stood just inside the building wearing a holstered handgun in plain sight of workers. Lisa Ashcraft said they had been trespassing onto her property. “The police said he was in his rights,” Ashcraft said of her son. “My attorney said he was in his rights.”

Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong agreed, saying charges had not been filed against Isaiah Ashcraft because he was on his property, the weapon not been drawn and he had a permit.

“There was no one there stating they wanted to file charges. No report was taken,” Armstrong said. “The owner did not admit to having an altercation.”

Ashcraft said the debris removal process damaged wall board and exposed to the weather beams and insulation on her property. In a letter delivered to Building and Inspections Director Victor Gray-Lewis, she said she had been promised the shared wall would be “capped and left intact” when she bought the structure with plans to remodel it for new retail shops.

Papers were served to Mayor Paul Winfield Thursday between open and closed sessions of Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting, but City Attorney Lee Davis Thames said the city does not plan to get involved.

“I don’t know where the city has anything to do with it,” said Thames. “The city doesn’t own that property. That’s a dispute between two private landowners.”


Contact Tish Butts at