Final page turns on the Blaine Book Company

Published on Thu, Oct 9, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Final page turns on the Blaine Book Company

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

What amounted to years of frustration and community heartache for many local residents, was demolished in less than two hours earlier this week.

The Blaine Book Company, the last remaining visual of Blaine�s pornographic past, was torn down by Lee Brakey and his workers on Monday afternoon, as handfuls of interested community members watched, standing on the sidewalk along Peace Portal Drive. Its white exterior walls and blue interior walls were mangled within minutes, as were the orange doors scribbled with the words �Preview 1� and �Preview 2.� By mid-week much of the debris had been carried off, and the rest, Brakey said, would be removed by the end of the week. Gone forever.

The building, erected in 1909, began life as Oertel�s Market � a community market that grew and slaughtered its own beef, and had chickens squawking and goats grazing in the back of the store.

Greg Goff, of the 50-year-old Goff�s Department Store just across the street, remembers the market in its later years, including its high shelves which stored supplies. The many old Blaine newspapers that lay on Goff�s shelves contain various advertisements for Oertel�s, informing the readers of specials and hours.

Like the Goff family, most in the community know that building as the last standing structure involved in the porn business that was highly successful in Blaine during the 1970s and 80s. Canada�s porn and alcohol laws were much more restrictive then, especially on Sundays, and many people crossed the border into Blaine to drink at the bars and utilize the adult entertainment offerings. At one time, there were several adult theaters showcasing films and other adults stores offering publications, toys and visuals � a business that most in the community would like to forget.

�The removal of the Blaine Book Company building ends a battle that the city of Blaine and its citizens have fought for many years,� said city manager Gary Tomsic. �In a very real sense, it represents the end of an era that has negatively shaped the image of our community. An image that we are successfully changing.�

The Blaine Book Company closed its doors for good nearly two years ago. Since then, the city of Blaine has passed an ordinance declaring the downtown area free of adult stores, and have zoned an area just south of the airport as the only area in town where adult stores could operate. Currently, the zoned area is 25.4 acres of undeveloped land.

Now that the lot is empty, its current owner and former proprietor of the Blaine Book Company, Chris Stansfield, may build another structure, according to community development director Terry Galvin. The owners have expressed interest in a three-story residential-commercial building, he said.

�The property owner, Chris Stansfield was very cooperative in this effort to demolish the building,� Galvin said. �I believe that in part this is because he understands the significant benefits of being located adjacent to the pedestrian boardwalk planned for 2004.�

The current empty lot is located directly next to the southern entrance of the proposed $1.5 million boardwalk.

�In my mind the lot that now stands empty represents a significant step in the steady transformation of the downtown area into a historic coastal commercial district,� Galvin said.

Although the building did represent bad memories for many, it was one of several remaining historic structures in downtown Blaine. Prior to the building�s demolition a black and gold historical marker declaring the year 1909 hung on the front door. The marker was sponsored by the Blaine Neighborhood Association, and member Susan Sturgill said she recalled the owner, Stansfield, paying for the marker himself.

When asked if the demolition crew saved the marker, they stated no, because no one had asked. Perhaps a fitting ending for this truly historic building? It was so destined to be destroyed that its historical value - seemingly tainted by years of unwanted behaviors and structural neglect - was let go, and not a word of opposition was uttered.

�We have mixed feelings,� Sturgill said about its demolition. �I hated to see it go, but I also understood the reason for it having to go.�

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