Museum working to preserve history as future of Main Oak Emporium building remains uncertain in Mount Airy

MOUNT AIRY, N.C. (WGHP) — The area that surrounds the Main Oak Emporium building in Mount Airy remains partially closed more than a month after the building that stood for more than a century collapsed.  

Construction crews have managed to stabilize part of the upper area of the building, while most of the top floor of it was removed completely or fell during the collapse.  

Investigators, while still unsure of the cause of the collapse, believe it could have come from a cell tower that was placed on top of the 19th-century building years prior.  

Contractors, building owners and architects have still not decided on what steps to take to rebuild/reconstruct Main Oak Emporium or if there is hope to rebuild at all.  

Across the street from the collapse, the future of the story of the building is in the hands of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

Since the July 5 incident, the museum team, as well as other individuals from the community, have taken photos of the collapsed building from all angles.  

Museum Executive Director Matt Edwards has stood at a window on the third floor of the museum for hours over the past month because it has a direct view of the upper level of the building which collapsed.  

“If there are big changes then we can kind of watch and document that in real-time,” he said.

His team has not only documented what has happened with the building through photos but has also collected items from the site for preservation purposes.  

“This stuff helps us tell a story,” Edwards said.

When he talked about the impact a series of bricks will have, he said, “it allows us to talk about the science and technology aspect. It also allows us to talk about the human element and how it was assembled by people.”  

While he has not decided on a timeline for when these items will be presented in a display within the museum, he said his team will be focused on capturing every moment that happens beforehand.  

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