By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS -- Seven fire departments responded to a downtown fire that broke out Sunday night in the Donnerberg Building.
St. Marys Fire Chief Ken Kline said early this morning his department received the call at 11:15 p.m. Sunday.
"We got an attack crew here, but a backdraft developed and I had to pull the guys out for safety. We're now working in a defensive mode protecting the nearby buildings," Kline told The Daily Standard at the scene.
Kline said parts of some interior floors collapsed during the fire making it impossible for firefighters to determine where hot spots may still be smoldering.
Currently the building is occupied by Linda's Sew N So and a small computer store. Linda Huston, owner of Linda's Sew N So, this morning said the blessing is no one was injured, but that it was "quite a shock" to be awakened at 5:30 in the morning with the news her business building was on fire.
"We've been in St. Marys for 22 years and in the recent location (Donnerberg) for one year. But, we've been planning for some time to move our St. Marys business to Celina. In fact we've already secured a location at 218 W. Fayette St. and plan to open there in a couple weeks," Huston said, adding, from what is visible at the St. Marys site, her inventory is a total loss.
Responding to the fire were departments from St. Marys, St. Marys Township, Celina, New Bremen, Wapakoneta, Buckland and New Knoxville.
Known locally as the Glass Block, the building was built in 1902 by the St. Marys Woolen Manufacturing Company and was known as the finest block (building) in northwestern Ohio, according to local historian George Neargarder, former president of the Auglaize County Historical Society.
"In 1902, it was joint leased with William Piper, a well-known merchant who also had a store in Sidney," Neargarder said this morning.
Also housed in the building during its lifetime was a dry goods, carpet and furniture business from 1905 to 1940s. From 1932 to 1947, the Morris Five to $1 Store was on the first floor west side.
During the 1960s the building was owned and occupied by Johns Furniture, John Slonkosky Studios (photographer) and St. Marys Decorating (Bob Wilges).
In 1990 Joe Donnerberg purchased the building for his television store and remained there until 1999.
Kline speculated firefighters will be on the scene most of today attending to potential hot spots and watering down adjacent buildings such as the former Cotton Mill on High Street and the new Spring Street Coffee Shop.