by Michael R. Allen
I was looking through old photographs and found this one, taken in June 2004. The subject matter is the peculiar corner storefront once located at the southeast corner of Maffitt and Lambdin avenues in the Ville. (The address properly is 4282 Maffitt Avenue.) The Land Reutilization Authority still owns the lot on which the store buidling and a smaller concrete block building on the alley stood, and has owned the lot since at least 1989.
As the photograph indicates, a fire had struck the building and eaten much of its structural timbers, flooring and roof sheathing. What testament to our city’s masonry that the walls held despite the loss of many joists. The building truly was an exquisite wreck. I remember looking down into the basement from where the corner stoop would have been, and seeing charred wood from the upper levels atop years of accumulated debris. A man walking by said that demolition was on the way. He was proven right when the Building Division issued its demolition permits in January 2005.
The building had been vacant nearly twenty years at that point, although its architectural character was still evident. The chamfered, recessed entrance tucked under the projecting corner bay was a wonderful way to both call attention to the commercial tenant and shelter those entering and leaving the store. The tiled, sloped third floor with its timbered dormer was another fine trait. There aren’t many corner storefront buildings like this in the city, and we will never know for sure how many there ever were.