Birdsong gone: City demolishes recreation fixture

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 21, 2005

If Howard Mast was a crying man, Thursday would have been a wet day.

Early that morning, Suffolk lost a downtown legacy, a building that has been a home-away-from-home for generations of Suffolk children:

the Birdsong Recreation Center. The building that has stood against the Suffolk skyline since 1958 has been razed, earning a place in the annals of downtown history.

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&uot;I’ve watched progress on the demolition everyday,&uot; said Mast, 87, who for decades served as city’s recreation director.

&uot;I wanted to cry today but I didn’t. Guess I’m too old.

&uot;A lot of people made memories in that building,&uot; he said. &uot;This is a major loss for the city.&uot;

It may look like Birdsong disappeared overnight, said Gerry Jones, the city’s director of capital projects.

&uot;But the company started working on taking it down a couple of weeks ago,&uot; said Jones. &uot;They have actually been chopping on the back of it for a week and a half.&uot;

Triad Demolition, a Richmond-based company handling the project, still has work to do, Jones said. Over the next two weeks, the company

will pull up the concrete slab floor and basement, bring in new fill material and plant the area with grass.

The demolition is costing $142,000.

The city’s public works and public utilities departments will take over once Triad is finished, Jones said.

Public Utilities will spend about eight months doing roughly $450,000 in utility work, replacing pipes, fixing underground utilities, and other jobs, Jones said.

Then public works will extend Finney Avenue to the west, ultimately to Wellons Street, and create a clear North Main Street vista for the $22 million Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

Motorists on Finney Avenue are already getting a glimpse of the future.

&uot;I’ve been looking forward to seeing it…and getting a feeling for what the public will see when it drives down Finney Avenue toward the new cultural arts center,&uot; said Jones. &uot;It is a much more prominent vantage point that I ever thought it would be.&uot;