Historic Manchester building being brought down after fire - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Historic Manchester building being brought down after fire

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MANCHESTER, CT (WFSB) -

A local landmark in Manchester was gutted by fire over the weekend. The historic building is just too unstable, according to city officials, and will be demolished.

The Main Street building, which was once a hotel in the historic downtown, was once home to more than 20 apartments and two businesses, the Great Harvest Bread Company and Connecticut Valley Coin before the fire.

The fire, which is believed to have started in the basement, tore through the building and quickly moved through the century-old walls before shooting through the roof.

The only thing fire crews could do was attack the flames from the outside.

What burned, including asbestos and lead paint, was a concern for many in the area. The air quality has been measured since the fire. Manchester fire Chief Robert Bycholski assured Eyewitness News that it's safe.

"It was built in 1905 and we know there could be many harmful substances inside," Bycholski said. "And it's still smoldering. It's still smoldering."

Demolition crews moved in on Sunday, getting to what they couldn't save by the fire. Once inside, crews said they found still smoldering debris, evidence of the destruction and a testament to the intensity of the flames.

"The walls are starting to look pretty unstable," Manchester Battalion fire Chief Dan Huppe said. "We just have one beam left and that's actually what's holding the outside walls in."

The Connecticut Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted residents after the fire and said the shelter opened for residents was closed on Sunday.

"We are grateful to our volunteers who helped Saturday night and Sunday to support this effort," American Red Cross spokesman Paul Shipman said in a statement. "We are grateful also for support from the members of the Manchester Citizen Emergency Response Team, the staff of the Manchester Senior Center where the shelter was opened, the Town of Manchester and to Highland Park Market for donating some of the food provided to displaced residents. A united response to emergencies helps to make communities more resilient."

Firefighters remained on the scene Monday. They slept overnight near the scene to make sure no hot spots flared up.

Demolition on the building started Sunday afternoon. It resumed Monday afternoon after it stopped several times. The decision was made to complete the demolition end on Tuesday morning.

The difficult part of taking the building down, according to fire officials, is making sure the buildings on either side do not get damaged.

"This used to be our playground back here," said Art Benson, who used to own a music store on Main Street. "It's sad, very sad."

A fence was set up to prevent anyone from getting inside, but people continued to see what the fire did to the historic building.

"It's devastating to see a building go down that's been here for 100 years," Manchester resident Alma Laundria said. "It's sad. It's really sad."

The investigation into the cause of fire is expected to take several days. However, the chief said it is not believed to be suspicious and an accident.

Manchester Community College is expected to help the owners of the The Great Harvest Bread Company by allowing them to use their kitchens.

Eyewitness News spoke with the owners of the Connecticut Valley Coin, who said they plan to rebuild.

The fire is a is tough blow for the downtown, which has been struggling to keep and attract businesses on Main Street. However, Downtown Manchester District Chairman Ed Firestone said they'll get through this incident.

"You'll rebuild," Firestone said. "We will. We will. You have heard they are wonderful people. They do a lot for the community and everybody is standing behind them."

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