Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fire Destroys Historic Building

Front-page news in Tampa this week is the Nov. 26 fire that destroyed an antiques store in the Ybor City National Historic Landmark District. The circa 1910 building at 2210 E Seventh Street burned so intensely that the historic Columbia Restaurant across the street was evacuated. Traffic still snarled Tuesday morning as commuters dealt with local street closings. The gutted building is scheduled to be demolished tomorrow.

Fire is a powerful source of change in historic districts. In Ybor City, the great fire of 1908 led to the construction of many of the district's brick buildings. But it was also fire that destroyed a Ybor city block in 2000, and it was fire that took another building this weekend. Owners of historic properties are well aware that their old buildings provide certain challenges when it comes to fire prevention. Building codes and construction methods have changed dramatically over the past 100 years. There's a reason why your insurance company doesn't think the original knob-and-tube wiring in your house is cute or quaint.

The current standard for fire protection in historic structures is "NFPA 914: Code for Fire Protection in Historic Structures" published by the National Fire Protection Authority. This is written as a building code that may be, and has been, adopted by many state and local authorities. Another source of information is the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, and the 1000 Friends of Florida has an interesting report on disaster planning in general for Florida's historic resources.

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