PDT Staff Writer
WAVERLY —The historic Emmitt House, located at 123 N. Market St., in Waverly, was destroyed by fire Monday night.
Dispatchers with the Waverly Police Department said the fire began at 8:28 p.m. Monday. Dispatchers from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office said the fire began in the kitchen, and everyone made it out safely with no injuries with the building a total loss.
Officials with the city of Waverly said crews were still on the scene Tuesday morning monitoring the structure because smoke was still billowing from it.
One of the issues the Waverly Fire Department faced in fighting the structure fire was the temperature. Temperatures dropped to minus 3 during the time of the fire. The results of the firefighting efforts were evident as a majority of the building became encased in ice, as a result of the water applied to it.
“It was a battle of the elements last night; it was extremely cold that kind of hampered our efforts. We were able to get it put out and were on the scene for about eight hours,” Randy Armbruster, Waverly fire chief, said as he was sitting in a truck watching the remainder of the building is torn down.
Armbruster said five other departments were called in to help extinguish the blaze. He said there were 60 people working on the fire.
“The cause of the fire is under investigation by the insurance company and the state fire marshal’s office. All of them came in this afternoon and took photographs and there is a contractor pushing the building in right now, to avoid the possibility of collapse onto U.S. 23,” Armbruster said.
He said the state fire marshal’s office became involved because of the value of the structure.
“It was a team effort by everyone not just the fire service, but the Red Cross, EMS (Emergency Medical Services) and every responding agency. The community came forward with food and drinks for the guys. It was a community effort,” Armbruster said.
Officials with the Ohio Department Of Transportation (ODOT) reported that a portion of U.S. 23 and State Route 220 were closed because of ice on the road.
ODOT Public Information officer Kathleen Fuller said crews spent part of the day removing an estimated 8 inches of ice from U.S. 23 in an effort to reopen the roadway to traffic Tuesday evening.
“Our (ODOT) had to go in and cleanup some of the ice that was left over from the firefighters trying to fight the fire. We’ve got that basically done on 23 however it looks like whats left of the structure is going to have to come down,” Fuller said. “They are waiting for a demolition crew that’s on site this afternoon and once they can get the front of the building taken down on the U.S. 23 side, then we can reopen U.S. 23 to traffic.”
She said State Route 220 would remain closed at that intersection while crews continue to work. She said State Route 220 would likely remain closed through Tuesday evening.
Fuller said while the routes remain closed traffic is being routed through the town of Waverly. The truck traffic being diverted at Chillicothe to Jackson and State Route 32 back to Piketon.
The origins of the building dates back to the 1800s when it was constructed and opened as a hotel.
According to information at www.travelohio.com, “the year 1861 may have been the most traumatic year in this nation’s history. The nation was split by civil war, and the first man from Waverly was killed in battle, John Barnes, had died in June, 1861. Waverly resident’s, caught in the national war frenzy, still took time out to admire the construction of James Emmitt’s new hotel at the corner of Water and Market streets. The Emmitt House was being constructed on the site of an earlier frame hotel, originally owned by a former business partner of James Emmitt. Emmitt, the town’s main entrepreneur, was building the hotel in anticipation of his greatest political achievement, the transfer of the county seat from Piketon to Waverly. The Emmitt House is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.”
The exact cause of the fire is not yet known.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.