Rutherfordton’s Hole ain’t what it used to be

Betty Harris

RUTHERFORDTON — There’s often hidden history in the landmarks in Rutherford County. And the deep hole on Main Street, now fenced off, is one of them. Luckily sometimes stories come knocking at the front door.

On May 27, 1986 an afternoon fire gutted the large building that used to stand across from the courthouse where the hole is now. The fire caused the roof, first and second floors to fall into the basement. Part of the back wall was damaged as well.

A photograph of the building that burned across from the courthouse years ago. Now the vacant lot is referred to as “The Hole” in Rutherfordton. Attorney Robert Harris’ law office was on the second floor on the front of the building.

The fire alarm was sounded a few minuts past 1 p.m. on that Tuesday morning. For four hours firefighters battled flames and thick smoke that poured out the building. A hole was cut in the roof to allow smoke and gas to escape so firemen could enter. Rutherfordton Assistant Fire Chief Joey Ford said said firefighters ventilated the building to keep the fire from spreading to other downtown buildings.

Officials believed the origin of the fire was at the rear of the first floor. The fire rekindled at approximately 7 p.m. and was extinguished again.

Spindale, Ellenboro, Fairfield, Bills Creek, Forest City, Hudlow, Danieltown and Green Hill fire departments assisted.

Other building occupants were Everette Murray’s photography studio. Dennis Hill’s electronic repair shop and wife Delores’ Oak Tree Craft Shop were also in the building. Hill had planned to open a sporting goods store in the building. The Hills were not present at the time of the fire having gone to Tri-City Mall at lunchtime.

Attorney Harris was able to salvage some of the file cabinets inside his office and temporarily moved his office to the former location of The Vault restaurant at the back of the Rexall building. Wilda Hodge, owner of the Painted Daisy located near the building, was evacuated as a precaution against the burning building’s wall collapsing onto her store.

Rutherfordton Police Chief Ken Hunsucker and his police force re-routed traffic and maintained the large crowd of fire watchers to the courthouse lawn.