On Saturday evening a call was placed to Cherokee County Dispatch to report a fire in downtown Blacksburg. Originally thought to be the car lot at 119 N, the location of the fire turned out to be the property next door at 117 N Shelby Street. 

The unoccupied building is currently owned by local businessman and Town of Blacksburg Chief of Police Jamie Ham and has been vacant for a number of years since a Dance Studio last officially utilized the space. The current building was constructed after the 1912 Fire that destroyed the majority of the commercial buildings in Blacksburg at that time. In 1912 a fire broke out at the grocer on Shelby Street and quickly spread up and down the row. All wood structures were completely destroyed prompting a new Town Ordinance that is still in place which mandates that commercial buildings in the Core Commercial area must be of masonry construction. A few years ago the then-owners of 103 N Shelby reported that they saw the scorch marks on the rafters of their brick building as they were inspecting the roof for repairs verifying that the fire in fact made it all the way up to Hwy 29. That same fire jumped the street and destroyed the bank as well as the Iron City Hotel along Church Street which runs parallel to the train tracks. 

After the large fire property owners eventually got around to rebuilding and this time with brick. The one-story buildings that stretch along North Shelby Street today from 111-117 all date back to just a few years after that fire. The property at 117 has been home through the years to the Blacksburg Chamber of Commerce, Amerolina Properties, an engineering firm, the aforementioned Dance Studio, and other smaller businesses according to some locals that we spoke with. 


As local area firefighters worked to contain and extinguish the fire they removed a portion of the front boards that previously held up shop signs in an effort to vent the fire and prevent it from spreading without having to cut a hole in the roof. The board, obviously water damaged through the years, easily came down and revealed that the original window behind it had already burst from heat and pressure inside the structure. It also revealed framework that is beleived to be original to the post-1912 construction.  

Onsite of the fire, property owner Ham remarked that he had no idea the window and woodwork was there behind the facade. A close look in-person shows that the white paint is cracked and seems to be covering up an older coat of red paint on the antique trim. The property also has a skylight and until the fire had retained some portion of the original hard wood floors and original upper windows at the front.

“We now have an excuse to do a proper renovation…” Ham said as he chatted with officials and local on-lookers as the Fire Teams worked to ensure that the fire remained suppressed. A maintenance crew was already standing by waiting for the Fire Marshall to complete his inspection so that they could board up the entrance until those proper repairs could be made. 

A measure which helped buy the Fire Departments necessary time to put out the fire was the firewalls that rise above the roof lines on all of the commercial properties along North Shelby Street. These safety measures keep a fire from easily jumping to the next building should the roof be consumed in flames. The Blacksburg Station 9 facebook page commenting on the incident pointed out that these simple features are powerful tools to help prevent fire spread from structure to structure and help prevent another tragedy like what happened in 1912.  

We thank Fire Departments Blacksburg Station 9, CKC, Antioch, Buffalo, Gaffney Station 12, and Grover for their hard work in containing and extinguishing the fire and we certainly wish all the best to Mr. Ham and hope that in the course of renovations that some of the historic elements of the property can be retained and preserved for the future growth that seems to be springing up along the once abandoned historic business district.