Fire *shudder*

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.



Categories: Disasters

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22 replies

  1. Cain Hall on the Raymond campus of Hinds CC. It was an Mississippi Landmark built in 1926 and it was iconic structure for those of us who grew up on that campus.

    I found a photo of the devastating fire online but I don’t know how to post it.

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  2. Old Main dormitory on the Mississippi State campus: 1959.

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    • Frank Williamson, son of Ralph, was trapped at the end of a hallway and perished. As we stood in the cafeteria line, recovery crews sifted through the ashes for his remains.
      He was a fellow graduate of the S.D. Lee High Scool Class of 1958.

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  3. Old Main dormitory at MSU, lost in 1958. Largest dormitory in the world at the time.

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  4. You forgot to point a finger at Columbus!

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  5. Worst loss of all –Windsor. :-(

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  6. And the National Historic Landmark Arlington fire in Natchez – September 2002. Oddly, both Arlington and the Prentiss Club burned on the Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend – but 17 years apart. In both cases, thanks to the Historic Natchez Foundation for stepping in immediately to get a roof back on the structure to prevent further damage from the elements!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was reminded of the historic church sanctuary in my home town that went up in flames during “renovation” from a spark from a welder’s torch. Indeed, in minutes, the entire structure was engulfed in flames.

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  8. Remember the Cabildo!
    Beware of Frenchmen[Acadians] wielding blow torches in the Belfry.

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  9. Henry Williamson, not Frank!

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  10. Henry Williamson, NOT Frank.

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  11. Don’t forget the Belhaven College fires (I think there have been three?) and the fire at Millsaps College, also in a building called Old Main.

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  12. Homewood in Natchez is a must for this fire list. One also must remember Everhope Plantation at Lake Washington, which burned during restoration work in 1992. Indeed, for a large (but still just partial) list of burned Mississippi landmarks, one only has to look at Mary Carol Miller’s Lost Mansions of Mississippi, Lost Mansions of Mississippi: Volume II, and Lost Landmarks of Mississippi, along with Richard Cawthon’s Lost Churches of Mississippi.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The Buie House in Jackson burned twice before being restored, I believe.

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  14. Old S. D . Lee High School In Columbus destroyed by fire.
    P. J. Krouse architect.

    https://www.newspapers.com/clip/30790415/s_d_lee_high_school_in_columbus/

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  15. Has Ed taken a sabbatical without pay?

    Like

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