This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on August 16, 2019
The managing director of the company tasked with pulling down the fire-ravaged Thain's building says the building is "fragile".
"You touch one piece and the whole building moves," Central Demolition's Ian Butcher says.
Workers are being very careful as they work to demolish the building at 1 Victoria Ave continues.
The entire interior of the building at the southern end has been completely gutted, and there is nothing left to support the walls, Butcher says.
"It is a lime mortar brick construction with bond beams around it and the bond beams have been tied in a full circle around the building.
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"You touch one piece and the whole building moves. We've got to get all the brick work off, then try and nibble through the bond beams to break them cleanly away."
The Thain's building caught fire on July 20, requiring the efforts of 65 central firefighters over four hours to put it out.
The blaze injured two men and significantly disrupted the lives of 10 tenants who had to move their businesses, or lost them entirely, as well as valuable possessions.
The damage to the building was evaluated as being so extensive that Whanganui District Council chief executive Kym Fell announced it would be demolished on July 24.
Central Demolition have been building platforms for two big excavators to sit on inside the back of the building as work progresses.
The job will progress from the back forward as workers want to leave the front standing with as much bracing as possible.
Butcher says he expects the entire building will be on the ground by Wednesday, August 21.
"When that front wall comes down we're going to have to shut the lane because we don't want to cause too much disruption," he said.
"If we were to just try and start smashing through it, you'd end up pushing one wall out the back and it would probably all end up on the road."
From Thursday, August 15 until August 23, a one-way traffic system is required for northbound traffic along Taupō Quay between Victoria Ave and St Hill St.
The detour for northbound traffic heading to the City Bridge will be in place via St Hill St, Ridgway St, Drews Ave, and then Taupō Quay near the i-SITE building.
The restrictions will be in place daily between 9am and 4.30pm.
The entrance to Victoria Ave coming off the City Bridge will be closed on Monday, August 19 and Tuesday, August 20 for the removal of the front of the building.
Butcher says most of the buildings they demolish are at the end of their usefulness.
"We demolish older buildings, but nothing as stunning as the Thain's building.
"It's a real shame that it's got to come down because it's beautiful, it's iconic in Whanganui."
Three workers are currently on site, although the number is expected to increase as work progresses.
They have already cut out all of the matai flooring, which was almost 100 per cent salvageable.
Also salvageable are most of the good-quality bricks. The firm has received a dozen inquiries about them.
Four thousand will be donated to a non-profit organisation in Whanganui, while the timber will return to the Central Demolition yard to be de-nailed and on-sold.
Once demolition has been completed, building owner Bryce Smith has arranged for Central Demolition to work with archaeologists on excavation.
Butcher says this is quite common for his team.
"We've done a couple of buildings in Wellington and at the old Cafe De Paris in Palmerston North which was all railway land at one stage," he said.
"They pulled out a whole lot of cups and saucers and all sorts of bits and pieces. There might be something historical below Thain's so we'll look at doing that as well."