Our View: The Kilby gets 180 days

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 06:24 PM

The Kilby Hotel on Washington Street received a breath of life-sustaining air Tuesday night. But it’s still in doubt whether the historic structure that was once at the heart of High Point’s black business community can survive.
On Tuesday, the Guilford County Historic Preservation Commission voted to delay the condemned structure’s demolition for 180 days. The city of High Point earlier deemed the building unsafe and had given the owners until last month to stabilize it or face demolition by the city.
The action by the commission gives the hotel’s owners who have been seeking to raise funds to save the structure a little more time to try to find a way to preserve the century-old building. The Kilby served as a hotel and entertainment center with several adjoining businesses over the decades during and after the days of racial segregation.
Burnie McElrath of High Point and her daughter, Myra Williams of Greensboro, are fourth- and fifth-generations of the hotel. Since they became principal owners of the structure just a few years ago, they have been consulting engineers, historic properties specialists and exploring possible avenues of funding to save the hotel.
Unfortunately, they’ve not been successful with finding funding, and during the last couple of years, the building’s roof and upper floors have caved in. But still, the Historic Preservation Commission’s action Tuesday night was appropriate — as long as the hotel’s three-story outer walls are not in immediate danger of collapsing outward onto streets and sidewalks below.
Public safety concerns are why the city condemned the structure. So during this six-month reprieve, city officials, people interested in preservation of local history and family members who own the Kilby must keep watch for any further deterioration that might endanger passersby. Protecting the public is paramount.
But for sure, preservation of this historic structure is important, too. We hope this additional 180 days gives the family and preservationists the time to find way.