Community devastated after fire destroys historic building

FOX19 - A historical landmark that has been a part of Metamora Township for the past 146 years is now a pile of rubble. The church, turned antique shop, burned to the ground early Wednesday morning.

The entire town is in a state of mourning after watching the Meeting House Antique shop on Lovers Lane burn down. The sign in front of the store is the only thing that remains standing.

Flames lit up the sky early Wednesday morning as sparks ignited inside the Meeting House Antique shop. Willie Jo Ball, the owner of Metamora Inn, woke up to see the fire around 2:30 a.m. after being alerted by her husband.

"He come in and said, 'I think you need to see this.' I just looked out the window and I saw the biggest flames. It was devastating to watch," said Ball.

She said it looked like the fire started from the back of the store and within minutes the entire shop was engulfed in a ball of flames.

"It did spread really fast. You know these old buildings go down fast when they catch on fire," said Ball.

The owner of the antique shop, Dave Henninger, arrived a short time later.

"I've had everything from bibles from the 1700's to dinosaur poop," he said.

Henninger said it was gut-wrenching watching 18 years of collectibles and more than 100 years of history turn to dust.

"It just keep flashing in my head all the stuff that was there," he said.

Henninger said he was able to jump in and save a Corvette.

"I was in the dark hooking up the battery and getting it fired up. I took it down the lane that way. I was backwards. I was going backwards but I was getting it out of there," he said.

The timing of this fire couldn't have been worse for the town. This time of year Metamora Township gets thousands of visitors who come in for the Old Fashion Christmas Walk to collect unique finds.

The Meeting House Antique store was one of the main attractions that is now suddenly gone.

"People come from hundreds of miles just to come to this store and they're going to miss it and I'm going to miss all of them too," said Henninger.

He said he will never be able to replace what was lost.

"It's just gone the end," Henninger said.

He said at some point he does hope to open a new store.

"I love this town and everyone in it, so we'll all pull together. This town's like that," said Henninger.

Firefighters are still not sure what caused the fire. The Fire Marshal was out to the scene to help investigate. The damage is estimated to be around $100,000.

The community has set up a GoFundMe Page to help the owner start over.

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