The building that once housed Murphysboro’s formerly booming business, The Brown Shoe Factory, is at its last straw.
The Murphysboro City Council has filed a lawsuit against the owners of the building — Carl and Carol Hohman — for the ability to knock down a wall threatening to fall onto 19th Street if not safety demolished, according to Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens. He said the city wants to also fence off the area around the building, but currently, it has no legal right to be on the property.
“Were not trying to use eminent domain to take possession of the property,” Stephens said. “We just want to get in there and make it safe for those people around the building.”
The building, built in 1907, has survived more than 100 years, including the distinction of being one of the few large industries in Murphysboro that came back after the 1925 tornado, according to Mike Jones of the Jackson County Historical Society.
“[The Brown Show Factory] provided work until the end of the 1970s,” Jones said. “It was one of Murphysboro’s major employers.”
The latter half of the buildings history is more troublesome. In the 1970s, the company decided to move the business to a new building, Stephens said.
“It was a booming business and when they decided to leave that building and build a new one in the 1970’s, the agreement the city made, which was unfortunate in retrospect, was that the Brown Shoe Factory said that they would build a new building in Murphysboro and continue to employ people there only if they didn’t have to clean up the old building,” Stephens said. “And so that began the multi-decade decline of that facility unfortunately.”
The building has become a growing safety concern to Murphysboro, which has led to the recent complaint filed by the Murphysboro City Council.
“It has not been maintained, and has been led into the situation it’s in today,” said Stephens, “And the situation it’s in today is such that the roof is caved in, and there are three walls that are left standing, one of which if it would blow over, could blow over into the sidewalk or into 19th Street”.
Stephens said the city estimates it will cost about $500,000 to completely clean up the site, due in part to environmental issues with the building.
As to how the cleanup will be financed, Stephens and Jackson County Board member Emily Burke are pursuing a grant for up to $300,000. Stephens expects they’ll hear word of the grant by July 1.
While the fate of the building is still to be determined, Stephens considers the space it occupies could become a greenspace, laying to rest the history of the Brown Show Factory.