Building razed on Gonzales city land _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ELLYN COUVILLION - The jaws of an excavator go in for another load of debris on March 24, during the demolition of a building in downtown Gonzales, on property between East Ascension Street and East Railroad Street. The building remaining is expected to be the new location in the future of the Department of Motor Vehicles in Gonzales.

A vacant building that was once the longtime home of both a church and a college is coming down on property the city purchased last year as a potential site of a commuter train station.

Demolition began in recent weeks and is about 75 percent to 85 percent complete, Public Works Director Alvin Broussard said Monday.

Gonzales purchased the property between East Ascension and East Railroad streets, in the oldest part of Gonzales, in 2015 for $350,000.

A vacant, two-story building on the property had become the target of vandals in recent years, and last week B&K Equipment Service started demolishing it. After the debris is hauled away, the company will remove the cement foundation, according to the $58,000 contract B&K has with the city.

The building was one of a succession of structures that housed First Baptist Church in Gonzales in the early part of its history.

Penrose St. Amant, a local lawyer and member of First Baptist since 1940, said the church was established in a small frame building in 1907 on Bayou Narcisse Street.

The building was destroyed in a hurricane two years later, but was rebuilt. In 1920, the church building was moved to East Ascension Street near the railroad tracks, St. Amant said.

Over the years, the church expanded. It was rebuilt after a fire in the 1950s, he said.

Eventually, First Baptist Church purchased property elsewhere, at 1217 S. Burnside, the main street though Gonzales, and moved there in the early 1980s, he said.

After the church moved out of the building on East Ascension, the building then served for some 20 years as the location of Ascension College, a for-profit school that closed abruptly in 2010.

Gonzales City Clerk Clay Stafford said a one-story building that was once part of the church’s and the college’s campus will remain on the property. The city is negotiating a lease with the Office of Motor Vehicles to move there from its present location on East Worthey Street, he said.

A portion of the building will also be home to River Church South, Stafford said.

There still will be remaining space in the building for lease, Stafford said.