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Title: Court House Badly Damaged by Fire
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Builing Completely Gutted by Flames But the Walls are Still Standing Intact.

Valuable Law Library Completely Destroyed

Nothing Saved from Superintendent's of Sheriff's Offices. Auditor's Books are all so Badly Burned They Will Need Re-copying. Vaults in Recorder's, Clerk's and Treasurer's Offices Withstood the Fire.

The Warren County court house to-day stands an empty building of four walls without a roof, the floors of the rooms filled high with blackened and charred debris, while in the north yard is a heap of smoking smouldering ruins of what was once office fixtures and old county records, the result of a fire which was discovered a few minutes past 4 o'clock Sunday morning, and which burned fiercely for about 5 hours.

The cause of the fire is unknown and there is no well defined theory as to the cause. Several opinions have been expressed but none of them seem satisfactory. It is suggested that it might have started from some over-heated woord work near some of the furnace pipes, but that was hardly likely, unless the fire had been snouldering along for hours, as there had been no great amount of firing done, and Janitor Brier had banked his fire in the afternoon and gone to Attica. It might have been done by a burning match dropped somwher in the building and left to burn slowly until it had eaten its way through a vent. It might have been started by someone smoking in the room in the basement in which cobs and kindling are kept. But any of these causes would have meant that it had been burning for a long time before it broke out. It might have been set on fire, but this is hardly probable.

The fire was discovered about 4:15 by Dr. Porter, who was awakened by the light. From his window he saw the first burst of flames from the upstairs window about the sheriff's office. He telephoned to central who attempted to blow the fire whistlye but it would not work. She called up the barn and told them to hitch the team to the hose cart and then notify as many as she could by phone. By this time Charley Brown and Lesher Weidenhammer and Nightwatch Moore had seen the fire and was giving the alarm on the streets. By 4:30 a crowd had assembled and the hose was attached to hydrants and preparations made for fighting the fire, while some of the crowd assisted in getting Sheriff Tague's household goods out of the rooms he was occupying-the jailor's residence.

When the first firemen arrived the fire was apparently confined to the southeast corner of the the building in which a winding stair runs from the basement to the garret, with which the sheriff's and clerk's offices were connected by doors. This stairway was a roaring furnace, and the two offices connecting with it were doomed before the water could be brought to bear upon them. Soon the fire connected with the dry and dusty wood work of the roof support, and before 5 o'clock the supports of the high tower were burned out and the fierce gale that was blowing from the west sent the heavy blazing timbers of the tower over on to the roof, carrying with it the roof and ceiling of the court room to the second floor where it burned, finally carrying the floors down to the basement.

While it is not probable that any part of the building that was destroyed could have been saved saved in the face of the gale that was blowing, the firemen were greatly hampered by the lack of water pressure. They could not get water into the second story window. This was the cause of considerable comment, all adverse to the water and light plant, of course, and the statements were frequently made that there was no water in the standpipe. But it was no better than when the direct pressure was on from the pumps at the engine hosue, and the real cause still remains a mystery. The pressure gauge at the power hosue showed 85 feet in the standpipe when pumping stopped Saturday evening. After water had been used for an hour Sunday morning it showed something like 80 feet. But in the face of this many of the critics maintained that there was no water in the pipe. It was even stated that the men hired to watch the ruins Sunday night measured the water in the standpipe and that there was only 8 feet. But they did not measure it. However, The Review had a man measure the water in the standpipe Tuesday. It stood within ten feet of the top-80 feet deep. At the same time the gauge at the plant showed 120 feet of pressure. The bottom of the pipe is 35 feet higher than the gauge. The would leave the gauge showing 85 feet. As to why the whistle could not be blown the rains had been dashed into the bell by the winds, and the sudden drop in the temperature had frozen the bell full of ice.

Much had been said about Nightwatch Moore and his failure to discover the fire before it had gained such headway. The writer saw the court house at midnight and there was no sign of fire then from the outside. Between 12 and 1 o'clock Moore made his regular trip around the court house and no fire was showing then. He was down at the depot until after 3 o'clock waiting for No. 3 at the request of Undertaker Boyd, who thought it probable that the boyd of J.A. Shannon might come in on that train. Between 3 and 4 o'clock he came up street went into Butler & Karst barn, then came out on to the stret, where he stood for a moment before going into the Commercial hotel. If the fire had been burning bright enough to make a light through the windows of the court house he could not have failed to see it before going in to the hotel, which was nearly 4 o'clock. When he started to the depot again he saw the light and started the alarm, but "Central" had already been notified.

When the tower fell some of the stones or timbers, or both, crushed a hole through the ceiling of the fire-proof vault in which the Auditor's records were kept and one long piece of burning timber shot thorugh the hole and started a fire among the papers in the vault. As soon as the smoke about the windows showed that there was fire in the vault the door was broken open and a stream of water turned on, and as soon as it was safe to go int eh removal of the most important books was effected. All are damaged more or less, but with the exception of some old records and unimportant books all of them can be recopied. But they make a sorry looking sight.

The recorder removed some if his books, but this was unnecessary, as his vault stood the test of the fire, as did the clerk's and the treasurer's and there was positively no damage to anything contained in them. The breaking of the ceiling by the falling tower is responsible for the loss in the auditor's office. The auditor's record typewriter and the adding machine were saved, but the clerk's typewriter was burned.

The complete law library in the judge's room back of the court room was consumed. The library contained a complete set of Supreme and Appelate court decisions of not only Indiana but of all the states and repesented value of about $6000.

The firemen worked valiantly and enceasinly in the face of the discouragement of no pressure of water until there was no longer any real danger of a spread of fire-until after noon- and they deserve great praise for their efforts. In this connection it should be said that we feel grateful to the Attica firemen, as grateful as they had got here to help us. They started over, but go no further than the bridge. The water had covered the levee during the night, and it being Sunday morning the engine of the Covington train was not steamed up and they could not get over like they did to the fire four years ago.

No one, luckily, was injured to any degree requiring assistance in the progress of fire fighting.

While the fierce wind made it almost impossible under any conditions for water to save the building, it was lucky that the wind was in the direction it was and that it came at a time when the ground and the housetops were thoroughly watersoaked from the recent rains. Otherwise it would have meant much more of a loss than was experienced.

The Commissioners came in Monday, and at once got busy preparing temporary quarters to be used by the county officers until the damage caused by the fire can be made good, and seta force to work clearing up the debris, preparatory to the repairs.

Auditor Winks and Treasurer Stephens are housed in the room across Monroe street from the Court house, next to High's hotel. Clerk Gray and Recorder WIlson will have their offices on the ground floor of the old Boston store. This will make a convenient place as it is connected by a stairway, inside, with that part of the lower floor occupied by Clerk Gray, and also has an outside entrance from the hallway. In the rooms on the west side of the hall upstairs, will be the offices of Sheriff Tague, Surveyor Gregory and Superintendent Bader. Mr. Gregory saved everything from his office, and he is ready for business. But Sheriff Tague and Superintendent Bader lost all their papers and books. The latter had a number of reports made ready to send in to the Superintendent and to the book companies, and these of course must be regathered. He also lost $150 worth of books that belonged to his own private library.

The present Court house was built on the hill, in Old Town in 1871 and '72, the contract being let by Levi R. Van Reed, Samuel M. Frame and Zimri Atkinson, as Commissioners, to Hays & Evans, of Bloomington, Ill, on March 8, 1871, for $48,400. There were twelve bidders, including Shatel & Brownlee, of Williamsport, $68,600, and Lewis Toms, of Attica, $52,500.

The lowest bid to that of Haynes & Evans, was $52,500.

The bids rangedfrom $68,600 down to the bid of Hays & Evans. The corner stone was laid June 2, 1571.

In 1886, the Commissioners, R.W. Alexander, T.C. Moore and G.C. Tyler. let the contract to Chas. Pearce & Co., of Indianapolise, for $29, 390 to take down the building, remove, and re-erect on the site it now occupies. While this is being done the county offices were in the store rooms along the street and the Court was held in the Nebeker Opera-house, now known as Broadie's hall. In the early part of '87 the work was completed, and the officers got back into their old places, in the same furniture they had been using when the building stood in the Old Town.

The walls of the Court-house stand as they were before the fire with the exception of the north-east corner, which seems to be damaged some. But the foundation is as solid as stone can make it, and the Recorder's, Clerk's, and Treasurer's vaults are unharmed. More than half the value of the building is standing, and at prices for such structures that means that there is $35,000 or $40,000 in value standing ready for repairs.

The Commissioners carried $25,000 insurance on the building and contents-$5,000 in each of five companies: American, Norwich Union, Continental, Royal and Glenn's Falls. Each policy is for $4,000 on the building, $500 on the law library, and $500 on other contents. The adjusters had not yet come to "view the remains" and decide what they will pay, but it is not likely that they can cut the amount of the insurance to any degree.

The county council has been called to meet at this auditor's office Monday, February 4, to consider appopriations to cover the loss occasioned by the fire.

[two pictures included in article were too dark to include]
[caption] The ruins as they stand today. Taken from the north side of the Court House Sunday Morning by Lighty Photo Co.

Caption:The Court House as it stood before the fire. View from the Northwest Corner.

Date: 1/24/1907
Origin: The Warren Republican
Record ID: 00002440
Type: Periodical
Source Archive: Warren County Historical Society
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Collection: Court House
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

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