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Building damaged in fire Friday also survived fire in 1886

Editor's Note: Due to a source error, ABC 17 previously reported a fire occurred in 1884. The source has since told us that fire actually happened in 1886.


Clean up is continuing Monday after a Friday fire heavily damaged the building at the corner of East Broadway and Ninth Street in Downtown Columbia.

The building houses Tellers and Ragtag Cinema's office space, both of which will be closed for the foreseeable future. Ragtag posted to Twitter on Monday saying, "Following the fire on Sept. 15, we've been able tor retrieve essential items, but the damage is severe and we've lost a large amount of equipment and archives."

Matt Fetterly -- research associate with the Boone County Historical Society -- said that building is the oldest-known commercial building in the Downtown Columbia Historic District. He said it was originally built in 1863.

"One year before the Civil War ended, if you can put that in context," Fetterly said. "So, we're talking over 150 years old."

He said all of the other buildings on that block are "little sisters" to that building.

"The remarkable thing is, that entire block was destroyed by a fire in 1884, except for that building," Fetterly said. "And it still stands to this day, survived the one just last week."

He said the building is also a contributing building to the National Historic District, making it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He noted historic districts can encompass hundreds of buildings, while only a portion are considered "contributing structures." It is different than an individual building being listed on the National Register.

Fetterly said older buildings actually tend to be more flame-resistant due to their brick structures, but the oftentimes all-wooden interior can allow a spark to move quickly through the building.

"The interiors can be pretty fragile if a fire starts in an old building," Fetterly said.

Because of these things, it's important to keep a building's historical significance in mind when putting out the fire and restoring the building. He said things like water and toxic chemicals can harm the historic wood.

"When you restore a building, the more you replace historic parts of the building like window panes, windows, floors, the less historic integrity a building has," Fetterly said. "Obviously, if a building has been burnt, you want to do the best you can to put back something of equal value, of historic value or of equal quality to what was in there originally if you can."

Clayton Gause, with Servpro -- the company working to restore the building -- said it takes those factors into account when working in older buildings.

"We're a little more careful about the cleaning process," Gause said. "We use lighter chemicals and stuff like that to preserve some of the antiques, the older material like the hardwood floors. We try a little harder to restore them, if possible."

Fire crews on the scene Friday told ABC 17 News they were also taking the age of the building into consideration.

"We're working through that to make sure that we address all the known issues with buildings of this time period, and making sure that there's no additional issues as a result of it," Columbia Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeffrey Heidenreich said Friday.

Fetterly said it's hugely important to preserve historic buildings and areas in Mid-Missouri.

"It's the uniqueness of the place that gives it a sense of place, and that gives people an attachment to a place," Fetterly said. "And, it's really just good economics for a town to preserve its historic structures, because the more people love a place, the more they want to spend time there, and the more time they spend there, the more money they're going to spend there."

Fetterly said he was able to find most of his information about the dowtown building using data from Nancy Thomas, a Boone County Historical Society researcher, and Deb Sheals, a historic preservationist.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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