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April 20, 2011

Haverhill building eyed as comic-book hall of fame

HAVERHILL — The heroes and characters of comics such as Superman and Dick Tracy, Garfield, Charlie Brown and of course Haverhill's own Archie Andrews and his gang could be just what the city has been looking for.

Various ideas have been floated around for reusing the vacant downtown Woolworth building, including as a book store, a cultural and performing arts center, which seems to be a favorite idea among potential buyers, and even tearing it down and creating a riverfront park.

But Josh Hrehovcik of Bradford said it would perfect for a comics hall of fame, as well as a performing arts center.

After all, he said, Haverhill was the inspiration for Riverdale in the "Archie'' comics series created by Bob Montana, who attended Haverhill High School in the late 1930s. Hrehovcik's family ties to Haverhill date back to the late 1930s, when Montana began basing his Archie's gang characters on real people who attended Haverhill High School at that time.

"Having something as unique as a comics hall of fame in Haverhill would attract comics fans from all over the world," said Hrehovcik, (pronounced "hero'-check). "It could put Haverhill on the map as a world-class tourist destination, like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland."

The building, considered by many to be Haverhill's leading eyesore, has sat vacant at the corner of Merrimack and Main streets since F.W. Woolworth Co. closed it in the 1960s. The Greater Haverhill Foundation bought the building in 2005 for $1.4 million.

Hrehovcik said he's shown his father's drawing to people throughout the community, including James Jajuga, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce — which has been helping to market the property. Jajuga says he likes Hrehovcik's idea.

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