This wouldn’t be a preservation blog worth the name if we failed to mention the devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday. As you’ve probably read, the church was under repair, and scaffolding had been erected around the 300-foot oak spire where the fire appears to have started.
Before I got into preservation, I never realized what a dangerous phase renovation and repair can be for a historic building–not as bad as abandonment or demolition, obviously, but still, with all the tools and machinery that are brought onto a construction site, things can go wrong pretty quickly with just a small lapse in attention on the part of the workers. Recall the fire at Hinds County Armory in 2013, which also began in the roof structure just after workers had left for the day. I’m sure a thorough investigation will occur on Notre Dame, but my first guess is that the repairs were at the heart of the fire. Meanwhile, the New York Times has a good article with diagrams of the building showing the spread of the fire and explaining the roof structure.
The bottom line is, there are just so many ways to lose a historic building, from hurricanes to tornadoes to fire to abandonment to collapse to ghosts, and this fact should give us renewed motivation to fight the meaningless demolition of perfectly good buildings that just happen to be in the way of whatever plans a public official or private developer have come up with. I’m looking at you, Mendenhall, Meridian, Warren County Port Commission, Hizoner Moss Point Mayor Broomfield, et al.
Here’s a look back at some of the big fires that have destroyed or–in some cases, thankfully–only badly damaged some of Mississippi’s icons.