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Why are there no windows in the StarNews building on South 17th Street?

Merton Vance

It’s a question that’s been asked by countless staffers here over the years.

Mainly, it’s because it was built primarily as an industrial building, and if you look around at a lot of buildings for other industrial purposes, you often find windows scarce. It’s the type of building that was constructed more for function than looks.

One of the main purposes for the building, which opened in 1970, was to accommodate a conversion to offset printing, which uses aluminum plates to transfer ink onto paper. It replaced an old system that used hot lead type.

Prior to the construction of the building here on South 17th Street, the newspaper operated in the Murchison Building downtown. Rye B. Page was still owner and publisher of the newspaper at the time. He sold it to The New York Times Co. in 1975 and retired to Florida.

Over the years, as various renovations and additions took place, there was talk of trying to install windows, but it proved too expensive or impractical because of the structure of the load-bearing walls and so forth.

The lack of windows has inspired occasional gripes and all sorts of jokes among people working here.

Dan Sears, a former chief photographer, once stood outside the building and shot a photo of the parking lot beyond, then blew the image up, placed it inside a storm window frame and mounted it on the wall of the office of then-Executive Editor Charles Anderson, who was surprised to find a window in his office when he arrived at work on an April Fool’s Day.

About the only time no one seems to complain about a lack of windows is when a hurricane blows through and this place turns into a busy bunker of people covering the storm and hunkering down as the wind howls. Plenty of us have spent many a night here not worrying about windows blowing out, although we’ve wondered about the roof once in a while.

A large section of the building was designed to house printing presses and other equipment for sorting newspapers, along with a warehouse to hold tons of newsprint rolls.

In May, 2009, those presses shut down, however, after the StarNews began contracting with The Fayetteville Observer to print the Wilmington newspaper and ship copies by truck back to the Wilmington area.

The change reduced costs and allowed the printing to be switched over to newer and more technologically advanced presses in Fayetteville that helped enhance print quality, especially color images.

While change is inevitable in this day when more of what we do to report news is increasingly done online, there are still those nostalgic enough to miss the late-night rumble in the building when those presses cranked up.

And even though we work in a windowless place, we’re working all the time to let people know what’s going on around Southeastern North Carolina.

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One Response to “ Why are there no windows in the StarNews building on South 17th Street?”

  1. On January 25, 2012 at 10:01 am cliff grant wrote:

    FYI, the paper was first owned by Rye (Rinaldo) B. Page, Sr. His son took over in the late 1940s and ran it until the sale to the NYT.

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