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    Quonset hut faces final days


Original publication: March 05, 2001

CARMEL — The life of a 51-year-old rusted, semicircular building that traces its
architectural roots to the 1940s war effort is nearing an end.

The owners of the Putnam County National Bank have rekindled their plans to
demolish the Gleneida Avenue Quonset hut — which has served as a movie
theater and bank storage warehouse — and build a three-story office building.

"It's been on the fire, off the fire, on the fire," bank President Dean Ryder said of
the demolition plan, which has been before numerous Carmel boards for more than
30 years.

The Planning Board approved a conditional site plan for the new building in
October 1998, then agreed in December 2000 to an extension. The bank, owned by
brothers Dean and Wayne Ryder, received zoning exceptions for the required road
setback and the requirement to include parking spaces with a building project. The
parking lot space that went with the theater is now owned by the county.

"We had approvals for a building, the approvals lapsed, and we went through the
process to get them regenerated," he said. He said he was "reasonably confident"
the project would proceed this time.

The Ryders envision knocking down the 4,500-square-foot hut and constructing a
15,288-square-foot office building. The land is across the street from the bank's
main offices and spans about seventeen-hundredths of an acre in the central
business district, nestled snugly between the Historic Putnam County Courthouse
and the county Law Department. Putnam County National Bank purchased it in

Dean Ryder said it's too soon to say when work would start. He said he could not
estimate how much the project would cost since the bank has not called for bids
yet. The new office building would be used as a storage facility, a home for the
bank's computer operations, and rental space, he said.

The Quonset hut, which takes up almost all of the property, has been likened to a
tin can that has been sawed in half vertically and laid on its side. A brick facade
that has a white portico and columns fronts Gleneida Avenue, while the only
addition to the back of the hut is a crumbling, shedlike attachment made of wood
and concrete.

Some consider the mostly steel structure, which has some boarded-up windows
and pigeons nesting in areas where the windows are gone, a blot on the
community. It sits next to the courthouse, a Greek Revival building on which the
county spent more than $3 million to renovate in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The corrugated metal is peeling away in some areas, and yellow insulation oozes
out one of the crevices. Graffiti is visible on the building.

A peak in a front door reveals what appears to be an old bank vault. A piece of
furniture and a radio are situated next to a side door that is frozen open from
winter ice and snow.

"It seems to be getting worse and worse," said Thomas A. Mancuso, 71, of
Carmel, who drives by it at least once a week. "Every time I pass by it, I look at it.
My wife gets mad at me because I say, 'Gee, what an eyesore that building is.'"

According to a May 1998 letter from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and
Historic Preservation, the Quonset hut is not eligible for inclusion on the state or
national registers of historic places.

Quonset huts were a common feature in the post-World War II era, said Allen
James, a spokesman for the state. Some are in use at state parks, he said.

The county at one point wanted to use the site as a construction staging area while
the new courthouse was being built. However, the bank could have lost its right to
build on the property if it stood vacant for too long, Dean Ryder said. Construction
of the new courthouse, which will be behind the historic one, is expected to start
before summer.

Ryder and others remember the vibrant Carmel Movie Theatre of the 1950s. The
venue closed in the early 1960s.

"I can remember walking up the street with my nickel in hand to go to the movies,"
said Dean Ryder, 54.

Corn Kemp of Carmel, who is in his 80s, said he remembers there were church
services in the Quonset hut, in addition to movie showings.

His daughter, Pat Kemp, said she was an avid moviegoer in the 1950s, when she
was in grade school. She saw "Tom Thumb" and Disney movies at the theater.
There were live shows before the Saturday matinees, she said, such as
performances by magicians.

"They would have people lined up on the weekends to see the movies," she said.

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