A fire hit a building at 729 Lincoln Way E, a former funeral home

MASSILLON – A fire caused extensive damage to a historic downtown building at 729 Lincoln Way E on Saturday night.

Originally from Massillon, Rachel Robinson recently purchased the building, which was over a century old. She intended to use it for her real estate agency.

“It’s a building that everyone is familiar with,” said Robinson. “We could rebuild it but we can’t reproduce it. There are some things you cannot replace. It’s a pretty iconic building.”

It was due to be demolished on Sunday due to the extensive damage caused by the fire.

The building once housed a funeral home and was the former office of the Massillon Indépendant newspaper for five years.

Following: Independent office relocation

Details of the fire were not immediately available.

The building had served as the home of The Independent until July 2020. Independent’s offices moved there in 2015 after the office at 50 North Ave. NW was sold to Tesla NanoCoatings.

Massillon’s historic building burns down

When the house was built over 120 years ago for a wealthy coalman, the brick house with high pillars along Lincoln Way E was one of the many mansions that lined the town’s main road.

The two-story brick structure was built in 1893 and had approximately 5,326 square feet of living space.

Research by staff at the Massillon Public Library shows that the property once belonged to farmer George E. Upham in 1876-77.

City directories show that the property – with an address at 229 E. Main St. – was later owned by EB Upham from the late 1980s to the early 1900s.

Around 1909, JM Seese purchased the land and the address was listed at 237 E. Main St.

Seese, a wealthy coal ruler, was vice president and treasurer of Goshen Central Coal Co., secretary and treasurer of Franklin Industrial Co., and secretary of Warwick Co.

City directories indicate that in 1931 Seese occupied the house and in 1933 it was listed as vacant.

The building became the Arnold-Lynch Funeral Home in 1938. The funeral home moved to its new home at 1100 Wales Road NE in 2003.

That year Jim Miller bought the building and renovated it into an office. All American Home Lending has moved into offices.

In early 2005, the loan company moved to Jackson Township.

Too much damage

Standing in the back parking lot of the building as firefighters continued to extinguish hot spots, Robinson said they had just started reviving the old building. They removed the carpet from the first floor to reveal recently stained hardwood floors. A stack of new tiles is now buried under the debris.

“My heart is breaking,” she said surrounded by her family and friends.

Robinson said the building was teeming with treasures. They had discovered art deco tiles surrounding one of the fireplaces in the house. They also found a few other fireplaces hidden by renovations over the years.

After the fire, she was able to recover a half-moon shaped window that was at the top of the front door. Other decorative windows, including a stained glass window on the first floor, were damaged by the heat of the flames and cannot be saved.

Jim Johnson of the city’s building department said he and building manager Frank Silla were called to the scene early Sunday morning and found the structure unsafe. Silla ordered the house to be demolished immediately.

Cottrill Wrecking teams were due to raze the building on Sunday. Johnson said they would flip the building over on itself and have the debris removed later.

There is hope that Robinson can recover items from the rubble, including a safe that was in the basement.

In a 2015 interview with the independent Glenn Dumoulin, funeral director and general manager of Arnold-Lynch, who spent many years at the Lincoln Way site, said the Diebold Vault was the place where Clayton Arnold kept all his money. When the funeral home moved, they couldn’t get the safe out.

Freelance writer Amy Knapp contributed to this report

This story will be updated. Check back to Indeonline.com later for more details.

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