Old Burgher law office burns
The Burgher Law Office building on East Chestnut Street in Corydon was gutted by fire early Friday morning and was torn down Monday for safety reasons.
The law office was a total loss, but buildings next door, Sarah’s Beauty Salon on the east, and Conrad’s Furniture and Mattresses and Laurie Kirkham’s Bookworm, a used paperback bookstore to the west, had minor smoke damage.
One person who lived in a second floor apartment in the Conrad building was evacuated early without incident, said Jon Saulman, assistant chief of the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept.
Five fire departments ‘ including Meade County in Kentucky ‘ responded to the blaze in the two-story brick building. Three brought ladder trucks.
The blaze was first spotted by Randy Fessel, a Harrison County EMT and Harrison Township firefighter who stopped for coffee about 6:15 a.m. at the Dairy Mart convenience store after he got off work. He had noticed a haze in downtown Corydon about a block away.
He went looking for the source and saw flames in the second-floor window on the east side of the building, which had been vacated three weeks ago as Marcus Burgher III and his son, Marcus Burgher IV, moved their law office just around the corner to a newly remodeled building at 200 E. Elm St. on the town square.
Indiana State Fire Marshal Andy Long told Burgher IV that the fire was caused by an electrical extension cord that overheated. The extension cord led to a portable air-conditioning window unit that was functioning on the second floor.
The firefighters were frustrated by the tar roof and several false ceilings that kept the fire smoldering. They had the blaze under control in about 30 minutes, Saulman said.
Burgher IV said the building, formerly the Luckett building, was constructed in 1899 by the five Luckett brothers from Crawford County. At one time, Jim Luckett had a funeral parlor there, and his wife had a millinery shop in the front, said former Harrison County Historian Frederick P. Griffin.
The late Kenneth Luckett ‘ not one of the five brothers ‘ had a law practice in downtown English that eventually included lawyer Glenn Lawrence (who went on to head the Indiana Gaming Commission for a while). Burgher III and his partner at the time, Lynn Lopp, now the Crawford County Circuit Court judge, bought the Luckett-Lawrence law practice in 1985.
Burgher III bought the Luckett building in Corydon in 1984 and converted it into a law office.
Ironically, in October of 1990, about the time that Burgher and Lopp’s English law office was recovering from one too many floods, it was set on fire. Burgher IV said a man name Kevin McMaile admitted to the arson but was never brought to trial due to a technicality. That building, too, was a total loss.
‘We have now been through two fires and three floods (one in Corydon),’ said the younger Burgher.
Burgher IV said a structural engineer told him and his father last week that the building was unstable in the rear and the east side where the fire was. Part of the roof was sagging drastically, and a ceiling joist gave way over the weekend, he said. Ronnie Rosenbarger took the building down Monday with an excavator.
The lawyers met with insurance people Monday. The building was insured.
The Burghers lost more than 500 law books, a fax machine, copiers, desks and boxed-up phone systems, but several fire-proof file cabinets were brought out Friday morning. ‘The most important stuff had been moved,’ said Burgher IV. The file room upstairs was not destroyed but most everything there had some kind of smoke damage, he said.
Burgher IV said he doesn’t know what he and his father will do with the lot, now filled with rubble, but he’d ‘like to put something nice back up there.’
Because the fire was downtown and threatening a whole block of historic Corydon, incident commander Saulman said he immediately called for as much manpower and equipment as he could get, just in case. About 40 firefighters from Harrison Township, New Middletown, Ramsey, Georgetown and Meade County were here. Harrison County Hospital in Corydon provided coffee and rolls to those who were working in 20-degree cold.
Tom Schickel died in a fire in the Knights of Pythias building across the street in 2001. That building, too, was brought down.