On October 3, what remained of the antique furnishings and fixtures inside Unity, Pennsylvania’s historic Mountain View Inn were sold at a final auction, one of three conducted since the site changed hands. The first was on Sept. 26.
The inn was built in 1920, and operated for more than six decades by the Booher family, An addition, built 15 years ago, is the only part that will be left standing after new owners James and Daniel Snyder of Upper St. Claire auction off contents and demolish the oldest part of the inn, which has seen such prominent political and social figures as former U.S. President John F. Kennedy and the Dalai Lama.
The auction managed to get rid of almost everything, right down to the ground covers planted outside the inn, and eager buyers – who have 30 days to claim their possessions – got started as early as Saturday, Oct. 10, carrying away fixtures, old wood paneling, flooring and even portions of walls.
The fun ended when a (reported) inspector from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP) came through demanding everyone leave the building.
“It may not be safe here,” the inspector is reported as saying.
Those removing fixtures and furnishings were even told they couldn’t pick up their various tools, though Mt. Pleasant resident Jane Altman is said to have retrieved both her tools and a brass foot rail from the bar.
Once the inn was evacuated, the PA-DEP inspector ordered the building secured until it could be examined to determine if the salvage operations had released asbestos into the air, according to PA-DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys.
According to Humphreys, the owners will have to hire a qualified asbestos monitoring contractor to undertake an asbestos survey of the building, the results to be conveyed via auctioneer Mark Ferry and partner Randy Betton. Neither the Snyders nor the auctioneers were available for comment.
Humphrey said it was impossible to state how long the survey and air quality monitoring would take, but sited damaged plaster in one of the bathrooms as the cause for concern.
Asbestos was used during most of the last century in a variety of building products, including insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, acoustical ceiling sprays, and plaster compounds to achieve a certain level of insulative value in otherwise uninsulated walls. It was also used in decorative plaster applications, to provide quick-setting of applications. Decorative plaster was particularly popular in the 1950s through 1970s.
When released into the air by breaking or damaging materials, asbestos fibers can get lodged in the airways, lungs or digestive tract, leading to a number of cancers, most notably mesothelioma, a particularly lethal form of cancer that occurs most often in the lungs (as pleural mesothelioma), though it can also occur as peritoneal mesothelioma (in the abdomen) or pericardial mesothelioma (in the lining around the heart).
It only requires one asbestos fiber to cause an irritation in mesothelial tissues, which can potentially lead to uniquely damaging tumors whose long dormancy, lack of symptoms, and progressively invasive nature results, after three to five decades, in a prognosis of less than 18 months to live. When caught early, and treated via an aggressive strategy of surgery and combined chemotherapy, life expectancies can be prolonged up to five years.
James and Daniel Snyder bought the inn (with onsite restaurant and bar) for more than $2.5 million after it closed in January. They plan to demolish the oldest part of the structure, leaving only the 53-room Mountain Laurel wing, overlooking Route 30, intact.
Sources: Maple Fire Life and Safety Dept website, PittsburghLive.com, Pittsburgh Post Gazette