Loss of a historic building brings community together

Loss of a historic building brings community together

BIRDSEYE, IN (WFIE) - A fire destroyed a historic merchant building in Dubois County on Thursday.

Fire crews from four departments were called to the Koerner Block building in Birdseye after 3:00 p.m.

We're told the building was being used for storage. No one was hurt.

Indiana Landmarks had been working with a local committee to raise enough money to stabilize and preserve the building, which dates back to 1893.

Birdseye Fire Chief, Dave Smith, said witnesses heard an explosion and saw a person running from the building when the fire broke out. Now, investigators are calling the fire, suspicious, and say they have a person of interest.

"It is devastating for those who were involved in it and it was the whole community so so yeah it's a bad deal," said Chief Smith.

People say the historic Koerner Commercial Block building was the place to be 50 years ago.

"Kids kind of gathered here it was a diner in the middle part of it," said Shirley Welp.

Welp came to see what was left because she worked there decades ago.

"I helped serve hamburgers and hotdogs chips or whatever you know and we played music we played pool it was just a great place to hang out," added Welp.

She isn't the only one that has memories now up in smoke.

Throughout the day people gathered, staring at the rubble in disbelief. Tom Schmidt used to deliver bakery products to the owner of the Koerner building and says it was his favorite stop of the day.

"A lot of memories are in that building for me but I had to come up and see how bad this was because I had a lot of interest in it when I saw they were going to redo it. I thought man what a great project and here it is," explained Schmidt.

The Save the Koerner Block committee spearheaded the effort to bring the building back to life. Volunteers like Mary Ann Cummings raised over $20,000 dollars through grants and donations.

"It was moving it was going this was pretty devastating this pretty well shoots the works I don't know the building is destroyed and thatch it. What happens now? I can't see it," said Cummings.

However, even though isn't there anymore, those with ties to the Koerner building say at least they'll always have memories to look back on with a smile.

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