LOGAN, W.Va. — He may barely stand five-feet tall with his boots on, but he can make tall buildings shake by his mere presence. One might say he is the man who is “tearing down Logan” and can appropriately be called “Mighty Mike”. In reality, he is a demolition expert and a very interesting character. His full name is Mike Urioste (pronounced like curiosity without the “c”).
The fateful night of November 15, 2010 was the beginning of what has since led to what is becoming a major facelift to the crumbling town of Logan and some surrounding areas. It was the evening of the Aracoma Hotel fire which eventually brought Mike Urioste to the town of Logan. He was working on the demolition of the nearby Bandmill Coal tipple when Scott Beckett, Chief of the Logan Fire Department, asked him to look at the burned out hotel.
The Aracoma had served as a historic landmark in the town of Logan for many years and, like other places in and around Logan, was never truly appreciated until after it was gone. Built in 1917, some of its guests included John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, actors and actresses, and just about anyone else of significance who ever visited our fair town. It also served as a headquarters for politicos over the years and no doubt provided the front for the “back-stabbing” and “throat-slashing” of the politics of yesterday. It was here in 1960 the tide turned when brief cases full of Kennedy money flowed into Logan to help elect a young John Kennedy as President, a man still revered by most Logan Countians.
S.A. Ammar Jr. owned the property in the early 1980s when this writer first visited the landmark hotel. S.A. was a friend and, upon his request, I went there to do a story about the improvements he had made since his late father’s passing. He showed me the “Kennedy Room” and virtually gave me a tour of the place. However, the most interesting part of the visit was the huge basement. It immediately presented an eerie feeling for me, and I remember thinking of the secrets the place could hold. There were large steel doors that led to tunnels beneath the streets. A person could hideout here forever, I thought. I halfway felt I would see the legendary Jimmy Hoffa poke his head from behind any corner. At the time, I was unaware of the 100 or more Indian graves uncovered when the basement was being dug out.
Mike Urioste probably didn’t know the history of the hotel until later. But since that time, he has become a familiar face, especially around the town, and has made many friends. Since painstakingly demolishing the hotel and removing the rubble, he has gone on to raze what was called the Esposito building at Mt. Gay, the Hale building in town, the former parking garage at Holland Lane, Man Appalachian Regional Hospital, the former home of both Logan High School and Logan Junior High Schools at the east end of Stratton Street, as well as several other nearby places. He has torn down five houses for the City of Logan and is about finished with a structure across from the Logan post office which he purchased. When a house fire at Canton Lane in Logan took two children’s lives, Urioste’s company voluntarily removed the debris at no cost to the grieving family.
His company, URCO Inc., has amazingly done the jobs with little, if any, damage to surrounding properties, vehicles or pedestrians. And, in each job he has saved property owners (by their own admission) thousands of dollars. It is able to do so because the company is almost unique as, instead of burying bricks, wood, etc., in landfills somewhere, Mike ends up recycling the material. He re-sales nearly every brick and timber that comes from a structure. He has buyers waiting for the materials.
Buildings are not his only expertise…