Nelsonville Square Buildings Catch Fire

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Multiple historic structures were damaged after a Saturday night fire tore through the former Preston Building on the Nelsonville Public Square.

Report of a “blown electrical transformer” was called in at about 10:45 p.m. in the area of 28 E. Columbus Street, and when fire crews arrived, smoke was seen coming from 30 Public Square, according to officials on the scene. The fire progressed to 34 Public Square, and firefighters worked in adjacent buildings, including Stuart’s Opera House and the Majestic Galleries.

Flames and smoke could be seen billowing from the buildings and numerous hot spots rekindled even after the majority of the fire in the art gallery building had been tackled by emergency crews. Dozens of community members stood on the other side of police tape watching the firefighters work.

The roof of the building which housed the Hocking County Art Gallery collapsed as firefighters attempted to contain the flames and avoid fires in adjacent buildings.

Firefighters broke windows on the right side of the opera house to access the building, but most water was directed at the art gallery.

“No cause for the fire has been determined at this time,” according to Dan Pfeiffer, director of the Athens County 911 Communication Center. All buildings on the East side of the Public Square have been evacuated.”

The fire was contained by 3 a.m. according to officials with the City of Nelsonville, but firefighters were still watching hot spots.

The art gallery building, built in 1879 and owned by the Hocking Valley Museum of Theatrical History, Inc., suffered the most severe damage and Stuart’s Opera House, owned by the same company and built in the same year, suffered smoke damage. The adjacent buildings suffered smoke and water damage including: Majestic Art Galleries, built in 1914 and owned by L’Heureux Ltd.; McFadden Insurance Services, also owned by Hocking Valley Museum of Theatrical History, Inc. and built in 1879.

Stuart’s Opera House released a statement Sunday morning saying the theater and office space suffered the “extensive water and smoke damage.”

“Thankfully, the opera house itself did not see any fire/flame damage,” the statement stated. “We are extremely thankful that no one was hurt and we are humbly grateful to all of the fire departments who saved Stuart’s Opera House (and Majestice Galleries and the entire block) from burning again.”

“This old building has been through worse and has also seen better days, she is strong like an ox and will be back in action as soon as possible.”

No damage estimate has been made available.

The Nelsonville Fire Department was assisted by the York Twp. Fire Department, The Plains Volunteer Fire Department, Athens Fire Department and Logan Fire Department, along with Athens County Emergency Medical Services and the American Red Cross. The Red Cross set up a warming station for crews at the scene.

No injuries have been reported, Pfeiffer said.