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Former Ford dealership building razed in Park Rapids

Don Wilkins watched early Sunday morning as clouds of dust, bats and pigeons flew into the sky.

The home of his boyhood friend, Fred Valentine, had just been razed to make way for a new J&B Foods store on South Highway 71 in Park Rapids.

Construction crews from Ralph V. Sanquist Construction, Inc., began preparations for the demolition well before dawn Sunday, and even though the event was supposed to be a closely guarded secret, crowds started assembling just after 5 a.m. to watch the demolition.

"Valentines lived in the front half of the second floor and had cars in the back half. There was an elevator to move the cars up to the second floor. The garage was below their home," Wilkins said.

The brick building had fallen on hard times. It has been home to an indoor skating arena, the license bureau and other businesses since 1978, when the Ford dealership, which had by then changed hands several times, moved down south on Highway 71.

The building is believed to have been built around 1917. At the time Tom Wilson, owner of Wilson's garage, moved in. Wilson sold the Ford/Mercury dealership to Charlie Valentine in 1928.

Valentine changed the name to Parkway Motors. It changed hands four times before vacating the downtown location.

The building took workers, using two large excavators and other smaller pieces of equipment, only two hours to demolish.