An evening fire on Sunday leaves an uncertain future for a massive brick house in Old Louisville. The smell of smoke still lingered on the block near the corner of Breckinridge Street as firefighters and residents milled about. With charred windows on the third floor and portions of the roof missing, it’s uncertain whether the heavy-handed Metro Louisville inspectors will order the building demolished.
We last looked at 923 First Street in 2009 when the adjacent Austin’s Inn Place was considering renovating the house next door. Proprietors Mary and Tom Austin purchased the building above on the left with plans to renovate the structure into condos or apartments and had placed offers on 923 First Street. The Austins still hope to renovate their property and are still interested in possibly acquiring the adjacent house.
Connie Crisler, owner of 923 First Street, was out of town yesterday when the fire struck but says she is currently speaking with insurance companies about the future of the property. Crisler says she does not want to tear down the building and is currently evaluating options.
One former resident says there were 11 residents in the boarding house and that there had recently been improvements made to the structure. Sources tell Broken Sidewalk that there have been several fires over the past two years, but this is by far the worst.
Even though the owner has no plans to tear down the historic house, its future is still uncertain. As evidenced by previous emergency demolitions ordered by Metro Louisville, it’s clear that the city will condemn a building in the name of public safety whether it could be saved or not.
Local Architect Gary Kleier said he has not had a chance to inspect this house’s damage, but says there have been two recent examples of demolitions in Old Louisville alone where the structure could have been saved. He notes that it takes a lot to compromise the structure of masonry buildings that predominate in Old Louisville.
From the street, it’s clear that the front facade of 923 First Street is bowing slightly, but a resident says that facade has been off kilter for years and did not change during the fire. The fire started on the third floor of the house, so there’s hope that most of the house only suffered water damage.
For now, 11 tenants are now without a home and one firefighter suffered minor injuries. We’ll keep you posted as the smoke clears around building’s future.