- Associated Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A historic building in downtown Montgomery that was being renovated partially collapsed Thursday and prompted street closures in the surrounding area.

A large section of the historic Webber Department Store’s exterior wall crumbled behind a fenced-off area, leaving the building’s gutted interior exposed to onlookers. The building was a theater before it was repurposed into a department store. The building is now being renovated into a mixed-use retail, residential and office complex.

Perry Street between Dexter and Madison and Monroe Street between Perry and First Alabama Plaza will be closed indefinitely after the collapse, City of Montgomery spokesman Griffith Waller said in an emailed statement.

The Webber building was constructed in the mid-1800s. It hosted performances by John Wilkes Booth - an actor who later assassinated President Abraham Lincoln - and was also the scene of an early civil rights movement protest.

Montgomery Fire Department Chief Ronnie H. Bozeman Jr. told Al.com that no injuries were reported and all construction workers who were in the area at the time had been accounted for.

Construction workers were installing windows in the building’s basement before a portion of the structure collapsed, he said.

“Upon noticing mortar cracking, the decision was made to evacuate,” Bozeman told the Montgomery Advertiser. “Within a few minutes the structure collapsed.”

The exact cause of the collapse was unclear Thursday afternoon.

“It’s very unstable at this time, and we are urging people to stay away,” Bozeman told Al.com. “We don’t see this in Montgomery often, but we are liable to see more and more of this with the renovation of downtown. These buildings are very old.”

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