By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A historic building is in ruins and an alleged drunk driver is to blame.

Police say a speeding SUV crashed right into a Liberty Restaurant early Thursday morning in Red Wing. The building has been a staple in this town since the late 1800s.

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Structural engineers have been on the site since Thursday morning, trying to figure out if they can save the building after a car ran into it, sending more than half of the building crashing to the ground.

Red Wing Police blocked off access to 3rd and Plum Street as what’s left of the building – which has sat at the site since 1886 – swayed with the wind.

“It’s one of those family places, so it’s really kind of one of the first things people see when tehy come into town, so it’s really sad to see this happen,” said Jeff Placzek.

A steady flow of people crowded the sidewalk to see what’s left of Liberty Restaurant, a staple in the city since 1975.

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“It’s unbelievable to see what a car could do to one of these historical buildings,” said Bill Hanisch, who lives above the bakery he owns in another historic building in the town. He heard the crash and made his way down the street.

“So I threw my shoes on, ran down the steps, looked up the street, and I was ‘oooh, wow,'” he said.

According to police, officers were responding to a call and on their way when they noticed an SUV traveling fast. But the time officers turned around, they saw a large dust cloud and debris coming from the corner of third and plum. They arrived to find the suspect crawling out of the window.

“There are five residential units upstairs, five guys who live up there in separate units and actually, the one guy Rick was in the scond story in the front living room when it happened,” said Doug Noreen, owner of the restaurant. “He heard the big crash and thud, he hit the floor. He thought a bomb went off.”

Noreen says he is thankful for the support his community has shown him. “If I set my phone down for 10, 15 minutes, I will literally have 30 texts, Facebook messages, stuff like that. Just people asking is there anything we can do to help. It’s overwhelming.”

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Police did arrest the driver of that SUV and believe he was driving drunk. To donate to the restaurant, click here.

Reg Chapman