Fire that destroyed historic schoolhouse deemed suspicious

Thursday, May 1, 2008
MATT SANDERS ~ msanders@semissourian.com The Head School in Scott City was destroyed by a Tuesday night fire that officials said is suspicious.

The state fire marshal's office has been called on to examine a possible arson that occurred late Tuesday night in Scott City and demolished a historic schoolhouse in the Illmo District.

The Head School, a one-room schoolhouse, burned nearly to the ground. Scott City fire chief Jay Cassout said the fire began at the rear of the building.

Firefighters responded to the building, near the railroad tracks that separate Illmo from the rest of Scott City, around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

The building's old wood made for a fast-burning fire. Firefighters managed to extinguish the flames by about 11:45 p.m. but remained at the scene well into the morning. By the time the fire was put out, only the frame and foundation of the building were left, and in some sections, even the frame had burned away.

The nature of the fire was deemed suspicious, but investigators have not determined whether accelerants were used, Cassout said.

No evidence linking the fire to those in Cape Girardeau has been found yet, but all possibilities are being investigated, and there's always the concern that it could be a copycat crime, said Sgt. Barry Hovis, spokesman for the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

The Head School was established in 1858 and closed in 1940. It was on a family farm east of Scott City until 2003, when the owners of the land the school was on donated the building to the Scott City Historic Preservation Commission. Since the move the commission has worked to restore the schoolhouse close to its original state. Improvements had also been made to the grounds around the courthouse.

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