BY MARK SHUTTLEWORTH

I stood out last week by the chain-link fences barricading the Putnam Hotel from curious viewers like myself.

I was in mourning as I stared at long stepladder cracks in the exterior brick walls of the eastern-wing walls. Bricks sagging out of symmetry. Window openings tilting together as though beginning their journey downward to the ground, to become a river of brick fragments and dust and metal I-beams flowing to the ocean of pavement.

My memory bubble took me back to my late 20s in 1977 when my (later to be) wife, Anna, and I had our first meal together on the Saturday evening of the DeLand Art Show held in the Barnett Bank parking lot each spring.

We went inside the Putnam Hotel, to The Amber Inn restaurant hosted by Tommy Smith. Walking through the French-door entryway, we were greeted by the warm radio-announcer voice of Tommy and then a quick wave and wide smile from my former Stetson University classmate John Dupree, who was playing the grand piano near a giant staghorn fern cascading down the west wall near the bar area.

It was more than a memorable evening for all.

The Putnam Hotel has decades of such remembrances for many in West Volusia.

So why is it falling apart ?

Why is this white elephant taking a final wounding from out-of-town game-hunter developers?

Why is it suddenly being declared unsafe by city officials and the developer/owners are saying “Gee whiz, I guess it is too far gone and needs to be demolished.”

Actually it’s past time for the city to exercise its authority.

Either the developer fixes the structure, and/or the city initiates an investigation of the suspected bad engineering involved, with possible effect on the structural engineer’s and general contractor’s licensing and insurance.

Some might call it “demolition by neglect.” Some might even declare “demolition by intent.”

Whatever the label, the property owner and contractor’s engineers need to accept their primary role in the possible demise of this once-beautiful landmark.

So they should not simply be allowed to demolish to cover their errors. The city should demand they repair the bad engineering. Shore up the walls. Fix it back. Fix it back. Fix it back.

As we say in Lake Helen, “Get your heart right!”

— Shuttleworth, the former mayor of Lake Helen, owns Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques in Downtown DeLand. He has been involved in countless historic-preservation projects across Central Florida, and is a leader in the effort to restore the historic J.W. Wright Building on West Voorhis Avenue for adaptive reuse.

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