05/10/06 — Fire destroys Eureka school

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Fire destroys Eureka school

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on May 10, 2006 1:55 PM

From staff reports

EUREKA -- The old Eureka School, a northern Wayne County landmark since 1924, was destroyed by fire Tuesday night.

Eighteen fire departments answered the call about 6:40 p.m., nine from Wayne County, five from Wilson County and four from Greene.

Eureka Fire Chief Mike Brock said most firemen were released at about 1 a.m., but that members of his squad stayed at the scene all night.

Investigators were to probe the cause of the fire today. Sheriff Carey Winders said he could not discuss the investigation until he met with arson investigators. There was no electrical power to the building, Brock said. The fire started on the first floor.

Brock described the building as gutted and said more than half of the roof had caved in.

The school had been vacant since 1991 but a church bought the property in 2001 and had begun renovations.

Glenn Lancaster, a deacon with the Heart of David Ministries, said this morning that his church had already renovated the former cafeteria and had blueprints drawn up for the remainder of the work.

"Right now, we just don't know what to do," Lancaster said. "It's a setback.

"We'd just like to thank the fire departments for what they did," he added.

The Fremont Rescue Squad and the Red Cross also were on the scene to assist.

Agnes Bartlett spent the better part of 41 years attending, or working at, Eureka School. "I knew every corner in there," she said. "I was the secretary there for 29 years."

Mrs. Bartlett said Eureka helped shape school administrators, including current Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor.

"It was the training ground for the new principals," she said. "They'd come spend one year with me, and then they'd go up to the county office, or go to a big school."

Mrs. Bartlett said she was devastated when she heard the school building had burned.

"It broke my heart, because the school was the heart of the community, and there's so many memories of when I was in school there, and also working there, and it's just heartbreaking."

The community could have fought harder to keep the school open in the 1990s, she said.

"I often regretted us not doing some thing to keep our school instead of letting them close it down. Fremont worked to keep theirs and we didn't."

Mrs. Bartlett said she did not know if renovations could have saved the building. "There had been a lot of damage on the inside from moisture, and plaster and everything had fallen off the walls, and it was moldy looking inside," she said. "So I don't know if it was structurally sound to do something else to it."

Although the building was abandoned, Mrs. Bartlett said seeing the building often inspired memories.

"We had the building, and I could come by there and memories would come back, and it's really hurtful to think about it being gone."

Although the building is gone, memories of the school will remain in the community,

"We're going to reminisce about things. In fact that's what we've been sitting here doing this morning," Mrs. Bartlett said. "We've been talking about things that happened, and the good times we had."

Eureka's last graduating high school class was in 1961. The school was then turned into an elementary school and was used until Northeast Elementary was built.