Sunday, April 27, 2003

Fire hits Chillicothe historic building

1885 structure central to redevelopment plans

The Associated Press

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio - A historic building considered a key part of the city's redevelopment plan has been damaged by fire.

The fire was mostly contained to the top two floors of the four-story Carlisle Building, fire Capt. Dave Russell said Saturday. He said there was water damage on the first two floors.

Bridal, gift, picture frame and barber shops were among the businesses damaged in the building, one of the tallest structures in town and a commerce center since it was built in 1885.

The fire was reported about 10 p.m. Friday and was under control about three hours later. No injuries were reported, and the cause was not immediately known.

Russell said the department needed to finish assessing the building's integrity before a full investigation could start.

"We have a lot of very difficult decisions about the potential for this building. It does not look very good," Mayor Margaret Planton said.

Pride had been growing in the city's historic look, she said.

"To possibly have the removal of this main piece at our main intersection is really devastating," Planton said.

The upper floors were vacant during renovations to turn them into apartments. The building, long a target for redevelopment, had been bought at auction for $226,000 in March by Joe Molnar of Chillicothe.

The fire is a setback for the downtown revitalization, said Matt Allen, economic development director.

"We're optimistic that maybe something will be salvaged."

Police kept a crowd of onlookers at least a block away because of concerns the building's spire could collapse.

Downtown's main intersection, which includes a portion of U.S. 50, will be closed through the weekend until structural engineers can assess the building's safety, Assistant Fire Chief Steve Barnes said.

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