Fire damages historic Cape Girardeau mansion owned by Jay Purcell

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com
Firefighters from the Cape Girardeau Fire Department gear up fight a structure fire Monday night in the 100 block of Louisiana Street at the intersection of William Street.

A fire Monday night significantly damaged the A.R. Ponder House, one of Cape Girardeau's oldest historic mansions.

The blaze occurred around 7 p.m., when a caller notified the Cape Girardeau Fire Department of flames showing from the north side of the building, which sits on the northwest corner of William Street and Louisiana Avenue.

The Jackson, Scott City, Gordonville and Sikeston, Mo., fire departments were called to assist in battling the blaze.

It took firefighters more than an hour to completely subdue the fire; portions of the nearby roads were blocked off during that time.

The interior of the house appeared to have sustained significant damage from flames, smoke and water.

The house, a three-story brick building, was built in 1905 by Abraham Russell Ponder, a railroad executive.

The house was owned by Cape Girardeau County 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell, who was running it as an extended-stay bed and breakfast.

Purcell went to the scene after learning about the fire, but said he was waiting for firefighters to finish their work.

"I don't know. I'm trying to see what's going on," he said. "I'm just waiting."

Fire investigators are still trying to determine the cause, said assistant fire chief Mark Hasheider. The fire is believed to have begun in the basement, he said.

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