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On January 10th, 2007 a fire ripped through Huntington Quarterly's
offices in downtown Huntington, causing the loss of 18 years worth of
priceless photographs, magazines, memorabilia and more.

By Tony Rutherford

 

Huntington Quarterly owner Jack Houvouras was in the best of moods. “We Are Marshall had just come out, and I was riding high,” the publisher reflected.

“I thought it had been a great year for Huntington and Marshall University. I was still enthralled by the filming and its nationwide release. I was so proud to be from Huntington and to be a Marshall graduate.”

That was Jan. 10, 2007. Less than one month had passed since the city bathed in Hollywood’s glamour. Houvouras remained inspired from director McG’s
cheerleading, from crowded, roped off downtown streets, celebrities touting Huntington’s charms on nationally televised talk shows and, absorbing the finished “We Are Marshall” film at the lavish premiere at the Keith Albee.

But just after seven o’clock, after falling asleep while watching TV on the couch at his home, Houvouras was awakened by the telephone. A voice on the other end warned, “Jack, I think your building is on fire.”

 

Houvouras grabbed a hat on the frigid January night and headed back to the city from his house in the Pleasant Valley Estates subdivision. Upon reaching the top of Fifth Street Hill, the publisher could see fire lighting up downtown. As he drove closer, his fears were confirmed – flames leapt outward from the rear second story of his office building.
Joining a crowd watching the fire at Ratcliff Place on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 10th Street, Houvouras hoped that firefighters could contain the blaze to the back of the building, thus sparing the H.Q. Publishing Co. offices. But as the battle continued, flames would peel away the roof and attic exposing the second floor to wintry elements. As the fire edged closer to the front of the building, Houvouras left the scene for a trip to his insurance agent. He anticipated a total loss. He was right for the most part.

Unfortunately for H.Q. Publishing Co., which in addition to the Huntington Quarterly publishes Marshall Magazine and St. Mary’s Today, the heaviest portion of the fire consumed the attic and portions of the second floor. Even though the first call came shortly after 7 p.m., firefighters continued to battle flames for several hours. They returned to the scene at 3:10 a.m. after a police officer reported that the blaze rekindled. 


A week later, Houvouras and his staff were permitted  – at their own peril – to enter the building and look things over. The roof had collapsed onto the second floor which was completely water logged. The once colorful and pristine office building was now charred and black. Houvouras and the buildings other tenants – Tri-State Eye Care Center, Duffield & Lovejoy Law Firm, The Word House and Dr. Amy Levine –  had to crawl through two feet of debris which included charred insulation, drywall, roof timbers, metal and wires, to salvage what they could.

The HQ staff was surprised to learn that some of the office contents remained intact, ironically appearing to have survived the sinking of “The Titanic,” rather than a “Towering Inferno.”

“It looked like a war zone and was 95 percent destroyed,” Houvouras explained after excavating potentially salvageable remnants. CD’s, papers, photos and computers were hauled down the stairs, even as the workers dodged still collapsing roof debris.

 

fire_staff

 

To read the rest of "HQ's Journey Back From the Flames ," please visit the Back Issues page of our website
to purchase this issue of the Huntington Quarterly.

 


 

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