Replica building’s demolition upsets Tombstone history buffs
TOMBSTONE, Ariz. (AP) – The demolition of a decades-old building built as a replica to one that existed over 100 years ago near the O.K. Corral gunfight has stirred up a dustup in the town known for its Wild West days.
At issue is whether the replica was old enough and historic enough to merit preservation in the so-called “Town Too Tough to Die.”
The Arizona Daily Star reports a handful of history buffs are angry at the city of Tombstone for demolishing the replica last year.
Gary McLelland, who used to live in Tombstone and now researches the city’s history from his home in New Jersey, said Tombstone officials made “a historic mistake” when they tore down a narrow, one-story building that was put up in the late 1950s as part of a campaign by the Tombstone Lions Club to rebuild the corral as a tourist attraction.
He said the structure on the city’s main drag was built in the same style and on the exact site of a butcher shop connected to the famed Oct. 26, 1881, shootout.
“It’s a travesty. Without a doubt, it was a historic building,” McLelland said.
Don Taylor, Tombstone’s official city historian, said McLelland has his facts wrong and ought to “mind his own business.”
“It’s not the building he thinks it is. The building was not historic,” Taylor said. “Several historians have been there (where the building stood) with better reputations than him, and they had no qualms about it. I have no qualms about it.”
Taylor said the building had been used for years as an office for the city marshal. It was demolished as part of the recent renovation of Tombstone’s historic City Hall next door.
He said the city building inspector who oversaw the project checked into the history of the structure before removing it.
“He’s not stupid. He wouldn’t have torn it down if it was historic,” Taylor said. “He’s very protective of our history.”
McLelland said he’s “not looking to wring anybody’s neck. I just want to find out what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Kathryn Leonard, who heads Arizona’s State Historic Preservation Office, said if the structure was built in the late 1950s it would not be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The “period of significance” for Tombstone’s historic district generally covers buildings from 1877 through 1929, according to Leonard.
Historic preservation in Tombstone can be tricky because the community has been using the past as its main tourist draw and primary economic engine for decades.
As a result, Taylor said, the city is a “mishmash” of buildings that actually date back to the Wild West days and ones that were built later to look as if they do.