Wednesday, September 25, 2013

History in Flames—Georgetown, South Carolina

As I’ve been working on this blog, I’ve started to get to know a variety of cities and small towns in the South. Among them, Georgetown, SC has become one of my favorites. I met native son and ghost tour guide extraordinaire, William Goins, earlier this year and began to delve into the city’s glorious past and even more glorious ghosts.

A view of the block that burned this morning. The SC Maritime Museum
in the foreground, sustained some damage, while the buildings towards the
Rice Museum were gutted by the early morning fire. 2011, by Lewis O. Powell IV,
all rights reserved.
The stillness of downtown Georgetown was broken early this morning as flames devoured a block of Georgetown’s history. This block of commercial buildings in the 700 block of Front Street have residential space above them. At the core of the city's historic district, the buildings between the Rice Museum and the South Carolina Maritime Museum sustained massive damage. The Rice Museum which is not connected was spared, though the Maritime Museum, according to the Georgetown Times, received some damage to its upper floors.

William Goins’ tour began at a bar, Limpin Jane’s, which is where the fire may have started. Much of the building occupied by the bar is a total loss. Harborwalk Books, located a few doors down, which had a marvelous selection of books on local folklore and ghosts, is still standing, though gutted. Most of these buildings dated to the 19th century and had survived the terrible damage inflicted on the city during Hurricane Hugo, the monster hurricane that slammed into the South Carolina coast in 1989. Downtown Georgetown was flooded by the storm surge.

The fire may have started in Limpin' Jane's in the green building.
All the buildings in this picture were mostly destroyed. This
photo was taken earlier this year. Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights
Like the many of the surrounding buildings in the historic district there, this block did contain some ghosts. During my ghost tour earlier this year, I inquired if Limpin’ Jane’s had any activity and Goins replied that some possible activity had been observed in the upper areas of the building. There are questions as to if the spiritual fabric of a location is damaged during events like this.

Most certainly the fire may create some spiritual fabric itself. People in buildings that have burned may sometimes smell smoke or, even worse, the odor of burned flesh. There may be spirits at the location of those who died in the fire. In the case of the Monumental Church in Richmond, Virginia, the fire’s victims are now believed to haunt the building. The church was constructed to the memory of the victims of the 1811 Richmond Theatre fire. The building stands on the site of the theatre and entombs the remains of the victims.

Thankfully, no one was killed in today’s fire in Georgetown, though the fire may leave some marks in the spiritual fabric of the block. I fully expect that the block will be reconstructed incorporating surviving original elements and I hope to see the block to return in even better condition.

A block of history destroyed.” Georgetown Times. 25 September 2013.
Harper, Scott and Clayton Stairs. “Fire in Georgetown: History up in flames.”
     Georgetown Times. 25 September 2013.

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