Pretty nasty fire in downtown Madison

I honestly don’t feel like blogging about the fire that gutted our 104-year-old Elks Lodge here yesterday.

On one hand, it makes me sick to see any of our beautiful buildings damaged by fire. On the other I’m glad our fire fighters were able to contain the blaze to the buildings it did. I find it strange to be glad that it wasn’t worse when it was awful to begin with.

In all I think four structures were heavily damaged or gutted. Next door the old City Hall building was in better shape, but that’s not saying much with the roof largely gone and all the elaborate tin cornice work literally melted off the side of the building.
Two houses behind the Elks were also heavily damaged.

Today they announced the cause was a bad light ballast in the basement of the Elks.

I talked with the Elk’s ruler today and he said they hope to salvage the shell of the building. However, they won’t know what is even possible until they get engineers on site.

The Madison Courier has photos.

These buildings are not quite as old as others downtown. The Elk’s Lodge was built around 1902 and the old City Hall c.1880 I believe. Thus the brickwork may have survived better than some of the older buildings with softer brick. However, reproducing the tin work could take a chunk of cash and that is what I fear will be forever lost. There was a bad fire on Main Street maybe 9 years ago and the cornice has yet to be rebuilt. The homes around the corner were from the 1830s, but other than knowing the roof was about to cave in, I don’t know their condition.

News of the fire got around fast, but they did not describe well where the fire was located. Thus calls to town were flying. Some good friends who had just bought a building here called when they heard about the fire on Indianapolis radio. People were calling the library to see if we were open.

Thus here’s the location. It was on West Street in the block north of Main. We live about four blocks to the southeast and the library is about four blocks west of this location. (Click for an interactive map.)

location of fire in downtown Madison

I took some photos this afternoon for the library archives and I’ll post a few later.