A historic Sedalia building was razed after a fire gutted it early Friday morning.
Though the cause of the fire is still unknown, Sedalia Fire Chief Mike Ditzfeld told the Democrat the building was extremely unstable and needed to be taken down “as soon as possible.”
“We didn’t want it to collapse on its own, potentially causing injury or damage to other buildings,” he said.
According to reports, the SFD received a call just after 6 a.m. on a report of a fire at 208 and 210 S. Ohio Ave. When firefighters arrived, flames and heavy smoke could be seen.
“We immediately went into defensive mode,” Ditzfeld said. “Our initial thought is it started at The Honey Hole Thrift Shop and spread to the adjoining A Touch of Whimsy business, but that’s not been confirmed.”
SFD crews, along with help from the Pettis County Fire Protection District, worked to contain the fire to the building and keep it from spreading to neighbor at 206 S. Ohio Ave., home of a dance studio.
“Our biggest concern was keeping it to just this building,” Ditzfeld said. “We sent a team into (the dance studio) to make sure nothing had caught and we’ll continue to monitor it.”
After the fire was put out, a crew from W&M Welding came immediately to tear the structure down.
“It’s not been a good morning. This is an old building, a longtime part of the downtown landscape,” said Sedalia Downtown Development Inc. Administrator Meg Liston Friday.
Owned by Wayne and Vi Rhoads, the 210 side of the building was built in 1872 for Mertz & Hale Drug Store. The 208 side was built soon after in 1879 for Brown Brothers’ Bookstore, eventually turning into Quinn Shoe Store. Liston said the Rhoadses are longtime business owners in the area and she and the city would lend their support “as much as we can on our end” to them and the owners of the two businesses that were renting the space.
“Any channels that we can help open up, we’ll be in contact with them,” she said.
Charlene Coke, owner of The Honey Hole, was on the scene Friday afternoon watching as a wrecking ball started knocking down what was left of the building’s roof.
“I have another full-time job not too far from here and when I pulled into the parking lot this morning I saw big black clouds of smoke,” she said. “I immediately drove (to Ohio Avenue) just hoping, hoping it wasn’t my store.”
The building was classified as a total loss and Coke, who said she did not have renter’s insurance, lost everything in the store, including her grandchildren’s Christmas presents she was storing there.
“It’s a shock,” she said. “But everything can be replaced. No one was there, no one was hurt and that’s what matters. I lost those Christmas presents and a framed photo of my dad, who was my mentor; those are important and I’m sad about it but no one was hurt. I’m focusing on that.”
Coke and her husband, Danny, have only rented the property since September. She said the top two floors were used by the Rhoads for storage, The Honey Hole was only on the main floor and basement.
“This wasn’t our main source of income, thank goodness, so we’ll get by,” she said. “But I do want to reopen. I want to bring it back to the downtown area.”
“This building was owned, it was an active and vibrant part of our downtown scene which is why it’s so unfortunate when something like this happens,” Mayor Elaine Horn said as she surveyed the damage Friday. “We never want something like this to happen to any building in Sedalia, but because of it’s historic value it’s especially sad.”
This is the second major fire at a historic landmark this year. In July, an attic fire destroyed the Mark Twain Apartments building, which was previously Mark Twain Elementary School. After negotiations between the owner and insurance companies, construction has finally started this month on taking the remains of the building down.