In recent months, both the building and Katherine had fallen on hard times. Katherine had cancer and recovered, then had a stroke, and then the cancer returned. In May, a hole had formed in the outside wall of the pub after hard rains and the building was declared unsafe. Employees hurried to remove what they could of the building's contents, moved to a new location at 12th and Franklin Streets, and the building was left vacant. The plan was to move back into the Main Street building after repairs were made. But the insurance company dragged their feet on authorizing those repairs, and the plans to return to the historic building ended when it collapsed in the wee hours of the morning August 1st.
When the sun rose that morning,
the extent of the damage was heartbreaking.
The pub's iconic leaded glass keyhole window lay shattered in the street.
A set of shelves balanced on the edge of the collapse,
stacks of plates unbroken.
More heartbreak was to come.
Shortly before 8 a.m., we learned that Katherine had passed away.
Becky Morton, the pub's manager, said sadly,
"Katherine has left and she took the building with her."
It seems both terribly sad and at the same time
somehow absolutely right that we lost two Lexington icons in one day.
The city decided that the rest of the building must come down.
The fire department showed up to hose down the debris after the Department of Natural Resources said the site most likely contained asbestos. The track hoe started its terrible work.
After the machines finished the awful business of bringing the building to the ground, only the stained glass window at the front of the building remained.
At Katherine's memorial service on Friday, Reverend Liz Deveney often spoke of Katherine VanAmburg and the Riley's Pub in the same sentence. She told us how she arrived here from Austin, Texas used to big city ways and that it was Katherine who first extended a welcome to her and who taught her to "sit down, sit all the way down" and be present in the moment. Reverend Liz told us that hospitality knows no physical space, and although the building is gone, Katherine's warm welcome can live on in the pub's new location or wherever we are as we welcome each other as family.
NOTE: All photos are mine with the exception of the first one, which Katherine took some years ago. More photos can be seen at the Facebook page for Riley's Irish Pub & Grill. You are welcome to use my photos but please give credit or link back to either this post or the Riley's page. Thank you.