Structural issues with the second-floor walkway at the Lew Wallace Inn has forced the state to close down the building
The longtime Crawfordsville fixture was shuttered by an emergency order of the Indiana State Fire Marshal office Wednesday morning. The report read: “A fire safety inspection of the above property was performed on Oct. 3, 2011. Pursuant to IC 22-12-7-6(a), you are hereby ordered to require all persons to leave, close immediately and prohibit persons from entering the above-captioned structure (located at 309 W. Pike St., Crawfordsville, Ind.) for any purpose, including, without limitation, use as the facility known as the General Lew Wallace Inn.”
The reports further states the structure presents a clear and immediate hazard of death or serious bodily injury to any person or trespasser.
In question are the load bearing elements of the second floor walkways. According to the order the walkways have not been maintained and are continuing to deteriorate and buckle. This failure to maintain the walkways on the second level creates a hazard to any user of the first floor of the structure.
According to the report, the building is owned by GUJ Corporation. Repeated attempts to talk with the owners were unsuccessful.
The emergency order was the results of a complaint received in August. Crawfordsville Chief Inspector Mark Evans said a complaint had been filed with Don Lang, who then visited the facility and contacted him.
“I visited the site and looked around and did a survey, and the deterioration of the second floor walkways needed to be addressed,” Evans said.
Evans then contacted the State Fire Marshal’s office and issued a notice. That was filed Aug. 17.
“The notice gave the owners 30 days to come up with a plan and basically to retain a structural engineer because that is what it is going to take to fix the problem,” Evans said. “We had some conversations with them, but at the end of 30 days no plan had been submitted.”
The state contacted Evans after 30 days and asked about the building’s status. He told state officials that no plan had been received.
“We tried to work with them and we gave them ample time to get a plan together,” Evans said.
Finally, on Wednesday the state representative for this region, Frank Cating, came to Crawfordsville and posted the emergency order.
Evans said the state did make an exception to allow the manager and his family to remain in the building for Wednesday night only.
“Normally everyone would have had to have be out immediately, but since the manager lived there the state allowed them to stay the one night only,” he said. “As of today (Thursday) everyone had to be out.”
The facility will remain closed until the owners request the Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission administrative law judge conducts an evidentiary hearing. At that time the judge shall determine whether the emergency order should be voided, terminated or modified.
Evans did say an engineer met with some of the property owners at the inn Thursday afternoon.