NEW ALBANY — It took crews more than two hours to battle a blaze at a historic home that caught fire early Friday in downtown New Albany, and another several hours to fight the hot spots.
New Albany Fire Chief Matt Juliot said the call came in at 4:56 a.m. of a fire at a house on the corner of 11th and Market streets, after a passerby saw flames coming from the roof area. The fire was contained by 7:30 a.m. and as of 9 a.m., the roof had collapsed and all second-floor windows were gone, with outer walls still standing. Crews continued to battle the hot spots until just after 1 p.m.
Juliot said no one was discovered or rescued from the home, which was believed to be vacant. A firefighter suffered a shoulder injury but is expected to be OK.
The chief said the construction of the home — subdivided into apartments in what he called an odd configuration — initially made it difficult to locate the fire; when crews were going room-to-room on the second floor, "the roof started to collapse so they pulled out all the crews and went on defensive mode, attacking it from the outside," Juliot said.
Once the fire was contained, crews completed a search and found no signs of people living in the building — Juliot said there was no furniture, only construction materials, ladders and debris.
As of Friday morning, the New Albany building commissioner had not yet ruled on the building's structural integrity, but local historians say they hope it can be saved in some way and restored.
The corner-lot house at 1102 Market Street falls within New Albany's historic Mansion Row, adjacent to St. Paul's Episcopal Church on the west and Naville & Seabrook Funeral Home on the north. It was built in 1910 by Edward and Mary Hackett, a family that was in the furniture manufacturing business. Edward died in 1922 and the home was subdivided into apartments in 1926, years before the bulk of larger building were cut into multi-family units during World War I and II.
Mary remained in control of the property until around 1940, when it was purchased by Vincent Knabel.
Floyd County Historian Dave Barksdale said that first and foremost, he's glad no one was seriously injured or killed in the fire. But he's concerned about whether the 109-year-old building will survive the damage.
"Corner buildings are very important to a street and when you lose a corner building, it's a shame because you're losing the anchor of that block," he said. "Depending on what the owner is intending on doing, there could be a good infill project go in there. It would be great if it could be saved, but just from my vantage point, I think it would be awfully hard to save."
Greg Sekula, director of Indiana Landmarks Southern regional office, said he has hope it can be restored.
"It certainly kind of makes your heart sink, particularly when the building is in a historic district and it is a contributing property within the district," Sekula said.
He said the house is a good example of framed colonial style and was one of the more prominent homes on the street when it was built. As an income-producing property, he said there are federal grants available to help with restoration.
"You don't want to see a gaping hole there," Sekula said. "I'm hoping that either the owner or someone else would step forward and try to save the building and rebuild the structure...hopefully the structural integrity is still intact which would make rebuilding feasible."
The Floyd County Assessor's Office confirmed that the property was last sold to Timothy Hollins in 1993. Hollins was unable to be immediately contacted for comment.