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After Blaze, a Piece of History Lost

September 5, 2018
After Blaze, a Piece of History Lost

Fitchburg firefighters work to slow a fast-moving fire that heavily damaged a historic home at 19 Prospect St. Sunday afternoon. Slide show at sentinelandenterprise.com. PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL SWEENEY Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FITCHBURG -- A historic Prospect Street home in the midst of renovations will be torn down after a two-alarm fire gutted the building on Sunday.

“I don’t have words to describe it. It was a beautiful home,” said owner Mohammad Chaudhary Tuesday. “We put in a year and a half of work into it.”

The three-family home was built in the 1860s and where Chaudhary and his family planned to live once it was complete.

Yellow caution tape now surrounds the home and boards cover windows on the first floor. The side of the house facing the Upper Common is charred up to the third floor.

That afternoon Chaudhary and his wife, Shama, met with investigators from the fire department, city inspectors and insurance agents about what to do.

“I’m devastated,” she said, while sitting in the driveway.

Building Commissioner Mark Barbadoro inspected the building and found that the second and third floors were structurally compromised. There is nothing to salvage from the floor up, he said.

The home had 13 rooms and was about 5,000 square feet, according to city property records.

Barbadoro and Chaudhary agree that the house needs to come down.

“It’s not safe,” Barbadoro said. “I’m really concerned about it’s proximity to the public way.”

The building is not an eminent danger to Prospect Street and homes around it, Barbadoro said. Within the next few weeks, the goal is to demolish the building, he said.

Next steps are to check the building for asbestos, clear debris, board up the rest of the house, line up contractors, and get an insurance adjustment, Barbadoro said.

On Sunday afternoon, firefighters responded to multiple calls of the fire at 19 Prospect St. Upon arrival, they found the home in flames, said Chief Kevin Roy.

It was an extremely hot fire that caused heavy damage inside, he said.

Roy said the city fire and police departments and the state Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the blaze and have not yet determined the cause. The fire appears to be an accident, he said.

Nobody was inside at the time of the fire, Roy said.

In addition to the Chaudharys losing their future home, the city has lost a piece of history.

The Prospect Street house was built for William H. Vose, the fifth mayor of Fitchburg who was also a wool manufacturer, according to an online database for the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

His son,George, treasurer of the woolen mill, lived in the home until his death in 1867, the entry says. The home later went to George Vose Upton, the secretary of the Grant Yarn Company and a city councilor for Ward 3 who served in the late 1890s.

Later, it was the home of John Parkhill of the Parkhill Manufacturing Company, which produced textiles.

The home is part of Fitchburg’s industrial history and an example of Mansard French style of architecture and community development, said Fitchburg Historical Society Director Susan Navarre.

“It’s very sad that it was badly damaged by the fire,” she said. “We are lucky to have so many historical houses in Fitchburg, but this is always the danger that arises with time.”

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz.

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