152: Old Beckwith Store Burns
A few people saw some smoke coming out of the back of this building a little after 2:00 am this morning as they were walking home from the bar. They called it in, and the fire department got there quickly. Initially seemed like they might get it put out without a lot of trouble. But, the building was very old and all boarded up and hard to access. The northeast corner where the problem seemed to start was shoved full of random storage stuff. (I think that side had been used as a storage facility and then maybe abandoned?) Eventually, whatever started burning back inside there got up into the top floor, and then the fire just seemed to run the length of the building. When we started seeing smoke filter out all along the roof, it seemed like saving it was becoming less likely.
A few minutes later flames started flashing up everywhere. Not too long after it was engulfed. The fire department focus shifted from attempting to get it out to just keeping it maintained and keeping all the surrounding buildings cool and safe. They were there all night.
This building has been a real eyesore for nearly the last decade. It was large and right on Main Street, and the entire thing was tagged up and vandalized. All the windows were broken out and boarded up years ago. There was a group of community people who have been planning to paint it for a year and a half. When I went to look at the building more closely a few weeks ago to get a better sense of the task we planned to start when the raining stopped, it became even more clear how demolished the structure was. Besides all the broken and damaged and boarded up pieces, much of it was literally rotting away.
Honestly, the whole area looks better with the building gone. Still, it's pretty sad. It was built just after 1900 and was probably the oldest building in town other than the Catholic church. It started as a store and had been that in many incarnations and at many points throughout the last hundred years. It had also been a community center, a teen center, a daycare, and a video store. Probably many others things as well. It's another piece of our history gone.