Southern Muse home
Historic Site

Rock Building: 2009 Fire

Historic Site ~ Georgia

On September 26, 2009, during heavy storms and flash flooding, lightning struck the old rock building in Chatsworth, Georgia, causing a devastating fire. The loud clap of thunder that came with the strike was heard and felt for miles. The direct hit of lightning was documented by an Arizona company that monitors storms around the country. News of the disaster came to Murray Countians as some were battling water from heavy rains and flash floods from the overflowing Conasauga River and area creeks. The fire destroyed the new roof, gutted the interior, and caused severe damage to the exterior stone walls. Renovation of the structure was already in progress even before the fire, so the damage came as a double blow to those concerned in the project. The building had recently received a new roof. After the fire, community and school-board members held public forums to discuss the future of the building. The general sentiment among the public was to save the structure if at all possible, though there was some dissent. The building was insured and engineering reports showed that rebuilding was feasible. Renovation began in 2010 and was completed by 2011. The building is once again a landmark.

2009 ARTICLES: Daily Citizen News: 2009 Fire . ~ . Photos of the fire . ~ . The Chatsworth Times: Lightning

Background: Phase I of the Rock Building Renovation, before the fire, had put a new roof on the old rock building. After the fire, it appeared that all the hard work was in vain. First reports indicated that the building might have to be demolished. The local school board, citizens, and builders met to discuss options. Feelings were mixed, as some citizens felt that the building could not be saved; some thought that it might be saved, but that attempts to renovate would be too costly; and others felt that it should not be saved ~ that taxpayer funds would be best used elsewhere. In the event that the building could not be saved, general sentiment leaned toward building a memorial park, pavilion, or monument from some of the stone. Further studies were done to determine which options were feasible. The terms of the insurance made rebuilding more cost-effective than demolition. Engineers determined that the structure could be saved, so the decision was made to renovate. Once the renovation was complete, the building was dedicated for use as the central office.