WATERVILLE — Demolition began in earnest Thursday morning of the former Levine’s clothing store building in downtown as an excavator tore down concrete walls and pushed around piles of rubble.

A crew from Costello Dismantling Co., of West Wareham, Massachusetts, is razing the building at 9 Main St., which was the site of the store for nearly a century. The demolition work is expected to last up to a few weeks.

Colby College purchased the property and the now-vacant building, with plans for a 42-bed hotel in its place as part of downtown revitalization efforts with the city.

By late Thursday afternoon, the crew had stopped for the day after having flattened most of the southern edge of the building, which was an addition to the original building.

A steady stream of onlookers stopped to watch the excavator at work in the morning and afternoon. Many parked their cars in the public parking lot across off nearby Front Street to watch the demolition, and some others ventured closer toward the chain-link fence around the perimeter of the property.

Among them was Raymond LaPointe, 56, of Waterville, who watched the demolition of Levine’s Thursday from a grassy area south of the site. LaPointe recalled that he had friends who lived in the apartments on the upper floors of the former store years ago and he would visit them there.

“I almost got an apartment there in the ’80s,” he said. “It’s kind of a sad thing to see this. It’s been here for a long time.”

William Levine, a Russian immigrant, founded the business in 1891 that would become known as “the store for men and boys.” The store eventually moved to lower downtown Main Street after the turn of the century, becoming a busy business that was the go-to spot for clothing in the Waterville area. A plaque on the store was dated 1910 because that’s when the existing building was faced.

Levine brothers Ludy and Pacy took over ownership of the store when their father died in 1946. The store closed in 1996, the same year Pacy died and a year before Ludy died.

Tom Oliver, of Manchester, bought the Levine’s building in 1998. In 2005 he rented out space in the building for flea market vendors.

Michael Soracchi, of Milford, Connecticut, bought the building for $70,000 in 2013. He renovated some apartments on the upper three floors and planned to draw retail for the main floor, but plans collapsed in 2014.

A tattoo shop, INK-4-LIFE, had moved into the ground floor on the Front Street side of the building in 2013 after fire destroyed the business when it was on the first floor of 18 Main St., across from Levine’s in May of that year. The tattoo shop eventually moved to Fairfield.

Colby College bought the Levine’s building and four others with plans to either renovate them or tear them down and partner with investors to create new businesses.

Staff writer Amy Calder contributed to this report.

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