Something new will arise from where the Hedderich’s store once was, and the city of Williston will be part of that rebirth.
Williston City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday afternoon to approve the purchase of the property for $10, and to advertise for bids to demolish its burnt-out remains. The store caught fire due to faulty wiring on July 10, and smoldering debris flared up two weeks later, causing further damage.
Mayor Howard Klug said he had talked with Dr. Loye Ashton about his plans for what had been one of Main Street’s beloved icons, and, ultimately, Ashton decided he would offer it to the city for a nominal fee, rather than try to rebuild it.
The city will recycle whatever building materials possible, including bricks, concrete and metal, and dispose of the rest in the city’s landfill, Klug said.
And, where appropriate, they will use some city equipment to help reduce the cost of the demolition, such as roll-off containers to collect debris that is being landfilled.
“Hopefully by the first of June that site will be leveled, and we will move onto our next plan of repurposing that square, or a square downtown,” Klug said, mentioning the Rock Ford property as a potential site for more parking once it is vacant.
Red Rock is relocating to a new structure that it is building in Sand Creek Town Centre, across the street from Menards and Sportsmans Warehouse and next to Sakura’s.
“We want to make sure we have plenty of parking downtown,” Klug said. “Then we can move forward with some exciting ideas.”
Klug said Gov. Doug Burgum’s Main Street initiative will likely play into what happens with the corner, and it could be incorporated into the city’s plans to tie its Main Street all the way back to Sloulin Field.
“The front part of (Sloulin) will be a corridor of retail,” Klug said. “I’m really hoping to build a civic center, maybe a hotel in that area there, and then bring it all the way down Second Avenue and down Main Street. Harmon Park will be at the center of that, and then all the way down Main Street.”
Klug said in Bismarck, at a conference on the Main Street initiative, there was a lot of talk about how many events Williston should have going on in its downtown.
Events could be small, like someone playing a guitar, or large like Summer Nights on Main.
“Just something to enhance downtown Williston, and that is what i think (the corner) will be used for,” Klug said.
However, there are many possibilities for the corner, Klug said, and suggested its ultimate fate could include public engagement to decide how best to use the space. Unless, of course, someone already has a bright idea for the lot and wants to buy it from the city.
In that case, a different lot might become a downtown square for events like Thursday nights on Main, Klug suggested.
“We haven’t tied the hands of the commission or anything,” he said.
The Hedderich building is among the oldest buildings in downtown Williston and has ties that go back even further.
Gus M. Hedderich and his brothers were successful traders at Fort Buford, and after the fort closed in 1895, they moved their operation to Williston. The town wasn’t even 10 years old at the time and had 300 residents and six stores.
In 1898, the original log cabin was replaced with a brick building. About 20 years later, that was replaced by the building that still sits at the corner of Main and Second streets. For about 70 years, it served as home to the Hedderich department store, and after that store closed in 1988, it became home to a combination antique store and museum, as well as housing Ashton’s dental practice on the top floor.