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Wagon Wheel's walls wobble


February 23, 2011 - Steps are being taken to ensure the Wagon Wheel is ready for new business ventures.

Although first the building must be able to stand.

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Del Kanka poses next to a seemingly jury-rigged support beam, in the basement of the Wagon Wheel. Photo by Gabriel Ouzounian (click for larger version)
According to Del Kanka, a demolition worker from Marler, Harlow construction in Leonard, the north facing wall of the building has become unsafe.

"The owner wanted to remodel the place and set it up for a new business, and were doing some demolition work to get it ready for the remodelers," said Kanka. "We're doing stuff like clearing out debris, taking down some ceilings, mostly so they can come and lift the roof up while they knock out the bum walls.

As wobbly as they are, they are still supporting, so we have to put up metal beams before they can knock out the wall."

Lake Orion Village Manager Paul Zelenak confirmed these plans, and noted that the south wall will also be undergoing reconstruction.

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"We expect the work on the building to begin in the next 30 days," said Zelenak. "They're planning on closing front street from broadway to lapeer while the renovations take place, but were looking forward to the preservation of this building."

Kanka also pointed out a number of interesting, if unsettling aspects of the building that indicated the renovations were needed.

A severe amount of melt-off water was leaking into the basement due to faulty pipes leading from the roof, what appeared to be bullet holes were also found in basement of the building. Burn damage could be seen in some of the upper rafters of the building, which also proved so weak that when cleaning, Kanka claimed they had started to crack under his weight.

Lastly, load bearing supports underneath the first floor appeared to be falling apart, and seemed to be made from a number of different materials including bricks, cinder blocks, concrete and wood stacked together in no apparent order.

The Wagon Wheel business had originally been across the street from its current location during the 1920s and 30s. It was a tavern then as well, owned by one George Wright, and also housed Lake Orion's first bowling alley in the basement.

The building that is known as the Wagon Wheel today began as a farm implement factory for a man named Charlie Howrath in 1913. In 1915 Howrath converted the building to a Ford dealership. It was transformed in the 40s and 50s into the State Theatre, and again changed in the 1960s into the Orion Youth Center.

Finally, in 1981, the Wagon Wheel relocated across the street to where it stood until it closed.

The current owner of the building is Dia Zaraga, who also owns Sagebrush Cantina. He was unresponsive and did not comment at the time of this article's publication.

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