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Ninety years ago: a Columbia church building goes up in flames

On a midday Sunday ninety years ago--Sunday, November 4, 1928--a conflagration broke out on Greensburg Street just off the Square and when the last ember winked out long hours later, a relatively new church building lay in smoldering ruins. Still, heroic efforts by firemen saved two nearby structures from what seemed certain destruction.

By Jim

The Tuesday, November 6, 1928 edition of the Adair County News told the story:

Baptist Church, on Greensburg Street, Burns to Ground Just After Sunday Morning Services.

Columbia's most pretentious church building was reduced to crumbling walls and ashes last Sunday when it burst into flames just past the noon hour. Both Sunday school and regular morning services had been held and though afterward several of the members said they had detected something burning the odor was attributed to the fact that two new furnaces had just been installed in the church.

About 12:30 o'clock, William Bullard, son of Rev. W.S. Bullard, came out of the parsonage and noticed smoke coming from the roof. He gave the alarm but the fire was so well under way that there was no hope for the structure or its contents. It is thought that the fire was started by a some (sic) defective flue in the ladies' class room, where there is an open fire.

Both the parsonage, which is built almost against the church, and the residence of Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Bradshaw, of Louisville, which is located on the other side of the church, were in grave danger and it was only through the efforts of the Fire Department that the two residences were saved. All furnishings were removed from both until the danger was past.

The Columbia Baptist Church was completed in 1915 at an estimated cost of $25,000 and represented great sacrifice on the part of many liberal donors. It was the newest and handsomest church in town and its loss represents a loss to the entire community. Insurance in the amount of $15,000 was carried on the building, which will not begin to replace it, considering the high cost of building today in comparison with fifteen years ago.

Services will be held today in Tutt's Hall and the walls will be wrecked and the lot cleaned off at once.

(Another article in the same edition of the paper reported a number of people from Campbellsville came with "fire extinguishers and chemicals to fight the fire," and the News extended gratitude for their assistance. The Bullard and Bradshaw families, in separate notes, gave heartfelt thanks to all who had helped save their respective dwelling places and the contents therein.)

Tutt's Hall was built in 1922. A brief article in the News in February that year stated that Columbia businessman and speculator N.M. Tutt "has started quite an extensive building on the alley, left side, just above the Baptist church. The foundation has been laid and the lumber is on the ground. It will be 80 feet long and 40 feet wide. At this time Mr. Tutt does not know for what it will be used. It will suit for a picture show, or a tobacco factory, and the floors could be made for a skating rink. It would also make quite a commodious machine shop. The work will be completed this coming spring." The passageway referenced above was Jefferson Alley.

The "residence of Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Bradshaw," completed in 1897 one lot removed from the entrance corner of Greensburg Street and the Square, had been the home of Mrs. Bradshaw's adoptive parents, Judge J.W. and Bettie (Walker) Butler. It also was the home of Mrs. Bradshaw (nee Grace Dohoney) from the time the house was completed until a few years after her marriage to Mr. Bradshaw in early November 1898. An article about the Butler-Bradshaw residence appears here: Faded Glory: The Butler residence, Greensburg Street.

This story was posted on 2018-11-03 09:51:22
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