Wall at Negro Community Centre collapses
By Kevin Gould, CTV Montreal
Published Sunday, April 13, 2014 3:11PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 13, 2014 5:02PM EDT
One of the walls of the Negro Community Centre in Little Burgundy collapsed Sunday, ripping open a gaping hole that exposed every floor of the three-storey building.
Firefighters received the call around 11:30 a.m. and rushed to the scene with specialized equipment to make sure nobody had been buried in the stones and decrepit concrete.
"The foundation, made out of fieldstone, suffered water infiltration and due to those facts it has partially collapsed," said Montreal Fire Operations Chief Luc Galarneau.
The mortar holding the 19th century building's foundation had dissolved because of water, leaving debris that looked like a mudslide had spilled out of the one-time community centre.
Nobody was hurt, but the building is at risk of further collapse, forcing the city to evacuate a nearby apartment building.
Its 38 residents of that building will have to spend the night, possibly several nights, elsewhere.
Those that do not have family nearby will be housed by the Red Cross until they learn when they can go home and either retrieve their goods, or move back home.
"Starting on Monday engineers from the city of Montreal or hired by the city will come and go through a complete evaluation of the building," said Galarneau.
Those engineers will determine if the building can be restored or if it will be demolished.
The building has been boarded up since 2010 but squatters frequently took up residence inside -- including the night before the collapse.
"Saturday people were evacuated from the building by the police of Montreal," said Galarneau, indicating that firefighters "used cameras with thermal imaging to make sure that no one is under the collapse."
"Over the years we've been told that some of the stones had come loose, and some had fallen, but nothing major," had ever happened said Galarneau.
Residents of the neighbouring building said they had at times heard stones come falling down, and even been woken up by noises from the community centre, but had never really worried about their safety.
On Sunday afternoon several people said their main concern was getting their families back into their homes.
"We have children who go to school," said one father.
The centre was established in 1927 after 11 members of Union United Church got together to create an organization that would "alleviate social and economic conditions among Blacks in Montreal."
The NCC moved into its 825 Coursol St. location in in 1955.
In 1987, a portion of the exterior wall collapsed, which touched off a series of events that eventually led to the organization shutting its doors in 1989.
Since then, members of the Black community have been working to restore the building, and still are.
Shirley Gyles, president of the NCC, heard of the collapse early Sunday afternoon and was fielding many calls from concerned citizens, unsure of what would happen to their restoration efforts.