JAMESTOWN – The investigation continues into a major fire that broke out at the historic Arcade Building on North Main Street in downtown Jamestown on Wednesday afternoon.
The call to the fire came in around 4 p.m., after smoke was spotted pouring out of the smaller building located on south side of the Arcade Building and adjacent to the elevated railroad tracks that run through the city.
With road construction underway on the Main Street bridge, only one lane was open coming in from the south. Fire crews also had to contend with narrow streets and rush hour traffic as they worked to arrive on the scene. Once they arrived, they also had the challenge of working around the elevated railroad tracks, which prevented crews from setting up stations closer to the fire.
City development director Vince DeJoy told WRFA that at one point the fire had jumped into the Arcade Building, but crews were able to battle it back and contain it to the adjacent smaller building.
Mutual aid was called in from several neighboring communities, including Falconer, Kennedy, Fluvanna and Lakewood.
Jamestown Public Safety Director Harry Snellings told WRFA Wednesday night the fire was likely an arson and an investigation is underway. Jamestown Deputy Fire Chief Chet Harvey said Thursday morning that the exact cause has not been confirmed, adding that while there was human activity in the abandoned building prior to the fire, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was intentionally set and only an investigation can confirm it. Anyone who may have information is ask to call the JPD Tip Line at 483-8477.
The Arcade Building was built in 1890 and was reportedly used for numerous businesses and events, including a movie theater, insurance offices, dance studios and a shoe store. Much of the businesses left by the mid to late 1970s. At one point, the smaller structure where the fire started was actually part of the Arcade Building, but a previous fire decades ago resulted in the top two stories of that side of the building being removed, and the remaining portion was separated from the larger Arcade Building structure and made into it’s own parel.
Over the years various residents and groups have tried to work toward renovating the building, but it is believed to be cost-prohibitive. The Gebbie Foundation was planning to apply for state funding to pay for a study that would provide the estimated cost for renovating the building, as well as what it would cost to demolish it. Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi said that because the main Arcade Building wasn’t significantly damaged by the fire and remains structurally sound, that funding request will still likely move forward.
PHOTO GALLERY: SCENES FROM THE ARCADE BUILDING FIRE