Building will be dismantled, wood recycled
“Our conversations have orbited around what we could do with the building. But our resources are limited. We can’t put money into rebuilding.”
Missi Smith, Executive Director
The old wooden livery stable next to The Merc Playhouse is, in its ramshackle way, something of a historic icon in downtown Twisp. A century or so ago, it actually started life as a place to keep horses, and you can still see stalls through the murky light filtering past gaps in the rough-hewn walls.
Lately the building has been a storage area for The Merc’s stage props and other random stuff. The front of the barn serves as an informal community bulletin board where notices for all kinds of events are stapled up. A plank façade extends past the roofline, adding some faded dignity to the structure. The sliding doors are chained shut.
Rustically charming, to be sure. Safe for future use? Not so much. Suitable for renovation? Not at any reasonable cost.
So this week, demolition of the livery stable was scheduled to begin — a decision that The Merc Playhouse board of directors struggled with for a few years. Ultimately, the board concluded that the theater organization doesn’t have the resources to repair or replace the building. The demolition is expected to take up to two weeks.
Speaking for the board, Merc Executive Director Missi Smith said last week that not only is the building a fire hazard, but “our biggest concern is that it’s one snowstorm away from falling down.”
“We have to plan for our future, and safety is an issue,” she said.
The building, while likely one of the oldest in town, is not a designated historical site, Smith said. It predates The Merc’s theater building, which was formerly the Twisp Mercantile store, built in 1924.
Merc board member Jane Hill did a bit of historical research as part of the process. “The building is in the earliest photos of the valley that I know about,” she said. “The only other information I could get was anecdotal. The building has been there as long as anyone can remember. It did not burn in the big Twisp fire of 1924 that burned the big three-story theater where the feed store is now.”
“Our conversations have orbited around what we could do with the building. But our resources are limited,” Smith said, citing The Merc’s tight operating budget. “We can’t put money into rebuilding.”
Wood to be recycled
The livery stable will live on, in a way. Contractor Jerry Laverty, who is dismantling the building, is not being paid for the work but rather will get to keep all of the salvageable wood for reuse.
And, some boards from the front of the building will be used to recreate the community bulletin board.
“We’ll build a fence along Glover Street,” Smith said. “It will look like the barn, including the historical staples.”
“We are mindful of the community’s history of recycling,” Smith said.
The Merc Playhouse was founded by Egon and Carolanne Steinebach in 1997. They sold the building and the adjacent barn to the nonprofit Merc Playhouse Society in 2014.
For now, The Merc will place a storage container on the lot for its props. As to the barn’s jumble of stuff, including stage backdrops from long-ago productions, some of it will be sold, and some will likely go the dump, Smith said — things that are “outdated, not really needed or not easily salvageable.”
“We’re keeping things that we clearly can use again,” she said.
Smith said The Merc has had conversations with representatives from TwispWorks, Twisp Town Hall and the Twisp Chamber of Commerce. “They are aware of what we’re doing,” she said.