MASSILLON – Fire caused extensive damage to a historic building at 729 Lincoln Way E Saturday night.
Massillon-native Rachel Robinson recently purchased the building, which was more than century old. She had plans to use it for her realty agency.
“It’s a building everyone knows,” Robinson said. “We could rebuild it but we can’t replicate it. There are certain things you can’t replace. It’s a pretty iconic building.”
It was to be demolished Sunday because of the heavy fire damage.
The building once housed a funeral home and was the former office of the Massillon Independent newspaper for five years.
More:Independent office relocating
The call came into the Massillon Fire Department at 3:04 a.m. Sunday.
“It is still under investigation,” Capt. Robert Knapp said. “The (city) Building Department determined it unsafe. It is under demolition. It was awfully close to the adjacent structure. They were concerned about that.”
“From what I understand it was well involved when we got the call,” Knapp said. “They initiated an interior attack.”
Due to concerns over the safety of the firefighters, the attack was resumed from outside the building.
Perry and Jackson township fire departments also responded through mutual aid.
The building had served as the home of The Independent until July 2020. The Independent offices moved there in 2015 after the office at 50 North Ave. NW was sold to Tesla NanoCoatings.
Historic Massillon building burns
When the house was built more than 120 years ago for a wealthy coal man, the brick home with tall pillars along Lincoln Way E was one of many mansions that lined the city’s main road.
The two-story brick structure was built in 1893 and had about 5,326 square feet of living space.
Research conducted by the Massillon Public Library staff, shows that the property was once owned by farmer George E. Upham in 1876-77.
City directories show the property — with an address of 229 E. Main St. — was later owned by E.B. Upham in the late 1980s to early 1900s.
Around 1909, J.M. Seese bought the land and the address was listed as 237 E. Main St.
Seese, a wealthy coal executive, was the vice president and treasurer of Goshen Central Coal Co., secretary and treasurer of Franklin Industrial Co. and secretary of Warwick Co.
City directories indicate in 1931 that Seese occupied the home, and by 1933, it was listed as vacant.
The building became the Arnold-Lynch Funeral Home in 1938. The funeral home relocated to its new home at 1100 Wales Road NE in 2003.
That year, Jim Miller purchased the building and renovated it into office space. All American Home Lending moved into the office space.
In early 2005, the lending company moved to Jackson Township.
Too much damage
Standing in the back parking lot of the building as firefighters continued to douse hot spots, Robinson said they had just begun bringing the old building back to life. They removed the carpeting on the first floor to reveal hardwood floors, which were recently stained. A stack of new tile is now buried by debris.
“My heart just breaks,” she said surrounded by family and friends.
Robinson said the building was full of treasures. They had discovered art deco tile surrounding one of the home’s fireplaces. They also found a few more fireplaces hidden by renovations throughout the years.
After the fire, she was able to salvage a half-moon-shaped window that sat atop the front door. Other decorative windows, including a stained-glass piece on the first floor, were damaged by the heat of the flames and can’t be saved.
Jim Johnson with the city’s building department said he and Chief Building Officer Frank Silla were called to the scene early Sunday morning and they deemed the structure unsafe. Silla ordered the home to be demolished immediately.
Crews from Cottrill Wrecking were slated to raze the building Sunday. Johnson said they will knock the building onto itself and debris would be removed later.
There’s hope Robinson may be able to recover items from the rubble including a safe that was in the basement.
During a 2015 interview with the Independent Glenn Dumoulin, funeral director and general manager at Arnold-Lynch, who spent many years at the Lincoln Way location said the Diebold safe was where Clayton Arnold kept all of his money. When the funeral home moved they were unable to get the safe out.
Independent staff writer Amy Knapp and Repository staff writer Malcolm Hall contributed to this report.
This story will be updated. Check back later to Indeonline.com for more details.