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Grissom building teardown begins

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BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: Grissom Air Museum Board Members John Ensign, Steve Salmons and Rick Kirk separate out alumnum sheets for recycling while helping tear down Grissom’s Little White House. The Grissom Fire Department could burn down the structure as early as nextweek.
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AMERICAN ICON: In 1960, Grissom’s own Little White House was constructed in downtown Logansport. During one of the first of many ceremonies, the first American flag embroidered with 50 stars that was flown over the Capitol was raised over the tiny building.

BY CAROLINE EGGERS - ceggers@perutribune.com

Once a picturesque space for celebration, Grissom’s “Little White House” is coming down.

Volunteers began tearing apart the structure on Wednesday, and had torn off the aluminum roofing and stacked it up for recycling by Friday.

The volunteers also stripped off anything that may be toxic, such as rubber, since the final act of demolition with be a controlled burn by the Grissom Fire Department that could happen as early as this week.

While they worked, a strong odor of mold drifted out of the quickly disassembling structure, which showed many visible signs of rot.

“We couldn’t save it,” said Rick Kirk, a Grissom Air Museum board member who volunteered with two other board members, John Ensign and Steve Salmons.

“A lot of history is going away,” Salmons said.  

In 1959, the 305th bomb wing set up at Grissom Air Reserve Base, and provided an economic boon to Peru, Logansport and Kokomo, according to Tom Kelly, board chairman at the Grissom Air Museum.

According to Kelly:

As a gift of gratitude to the base, seventeen local contractors and businessman built the Little White House in 1960 in downtown Logansport in front of the Logansport hotel.

The first American flag embroidered with 50 stars that was flown over the Capitol was flown to Logansport, and raised over the tiny building during an early ceremony.

Later that year, the Little White House moved to Grissom, and served as the Office of Family Services Headquarters. The group helped citizens balance their checkbooks, and processed all married couples who lived on the base.

The space also hosted a lot of ceremonies.

“Just about everyone I know who reenlisted did it on the front steps of this building, just for the photo-op,” said Kelly, who was stationed at Grissom in the 1970s.

But then the building fell into disrepair.

Kelly estimated the tiny building would have costs of $64,000 to move, and an additional $30,000 to fix up, according to Kelly.

“You could build a building cheaper than that,” Kelly said.  

In a Facebook post, the Grissom Air Museum page wrote “this is breaking our hearts too.”

Lisa Rocheford commented “This is truly a sad day. ... LOVED the ‘little white house.’”

Joel Youngs commented, “Maybe they can build another ‘Little White House’? It won’t be the same.”

Kelly believes there is still plenty of fascinating history at Grissom.

“In 1964, Grissom pumped a million a month into local economy just in payroll,” he said.

And the people on that payroll brought culture and diversity.

“It made an impact on Peru, Logansport and Kokomo that we’re still feeling today,” Kelly said.