A longstanding eyesore along the southern gateway into downtown Sonora is no more.

Work got underway just before the crack of dawn on Saturday to demolish a 125-year-old building at 301 S. Washington St. that was all but destroyed by a fire in December 2009.

By about 7:50 a.m., an excavator had leveled the structure that was home to Bombay Indian Cuisine when the blaze happened.

The demolition was conducted by contractor Moyle Excavation, based in Jamestown, after city building inspectors demanded that the building finally be taken down.

Lee Moyle, owner of Moyle Excavation, said the building being closely sandwiched between two others that are occupied by operating businesses was the most challenging aspect of the job.

“We notified everybody and talked with them ahead of time,” he said.

A large excavator operated by Moyle’s son, Josh, was used to tear down the building from back to front.

Moyle explained that Josh had to strategically take down the building’s support structures so that it would collapse inward and not damage the adjacent buildings on each side. 

A few onlookers stopped to watch the process despite the chilly morning air that was in the low 40s.

William Feng, owner of Downtown Diner adjacent to the burned-out building, kept a close watch on the work to make sure nothing bad happened to his building.

Feng, who remodeled his building after it was also damaged in the fire 10 years ago, said he wasn’t sure how he felt about having a vacant lot next to his business.

“Hopefully, they’ll put a home or new building there,” he said.

The only part of the building left standing after 8 a.m. was the wall next to Feng’s business, which Moyle said they planned to take down by hand later in the day.

Moyle estimated about 75 tons of rubble from the demolition would be transported by truck to Foothill Sanitary Landfill in Linden.

Prior to the work starting, Moyle said they checked the inside of the building to make sure it was unoccupied but didn’t see anything of note.

The building was purchased by Amarjit Singh in 2007 for $423,500 from former owners Victor and Luiz Mariano, according to public records on file at the Tuolumne County Assessor-Recorder’s Office.

Singh, whose listed address is in Rancho Cucamonga, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Moyle said he was hired to do the job by Singh’s insurance company but hasn’t had any communication with Singh himself. He estimated the total cost of the job was about $25,000.

The city was unable to demand that the building be torn down due to a prolonged lawsuit filed against Singh in 2010 by AMCO Insurance that didn’t get resolved until last year.

City officials have said they were notified that the legal battle had finally ended last year and coordinated with Singh to have the building demolished.

In 2012, the city forced the upper floor of the building to be removed due to safety concerns. 

An inspection conducted in January determined that the building was at risk of collapsing entirely and needed to be torn down. 

The building was constructed as a two-story commercial building in 1895 at South Washington and Jackson streets and relocated to its current location in 1927, according to the city’s historic resources inventory.

Moyle had a crew of five with him to help block northbound traffic from South Washington Street. A detour was scheduled to be in place until 6 p.m. Saturday.

They will likely have to do some final cleanup work on Monday, according to Moyle.

 

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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