Photos Zac Peterson/IV

Ithaca, N.Y. — The fire at The Chapter House in Ithaca Tuesday morning began on the northwest side of the building.

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So far, most of the photographs that have emerged from the wake of the fire were taken from the east, on Williams Street, or the southeast, along Stewart Avenue beyond the crime tape. (Police have had the back of the building blocked off from public view.)

This is important to understand — says Michael Niechwiadowicz, Ithaca’s deputy building commissioner — if you’re trying to get a sense of the extent of the damage likely done to the inside of the historic Chapter House bar.

“There’s going to be significant work in that building with all that water that was put in there,” Niechwiadowicz says.

“…There was fire blowing out the front windows of the bar.”

Niechwiadowicz, right, on scene
Photos Zac Peterson/IV

Niechwiadowicz says city staff probably will not get control of the damaged building on Tuesday night. The bar itself will be closed at least for the foreseeable future.

“We will get engineers involved — I will be looking at the building as well,” Niechwiadowicz says.

CSP Management has control of the building, and insurance companies are already on site and talking to Ithaca officials, according to Niechwiadowicz.

“There’s a lot of coordination that has to occur between fire, police, our department, insurance (and) the owners of the building,” he says. Peter J. Sarkus is listed as the owner, according to property records.

Mayor Svante Myrick also spoke with us about the city’s response to The Chapter House fire.

Here are a few things he said:

— What does “total loss” mean?

Both buildings have been declared a “total loss.” That means that, in insurance terms, it’s deemed cheaper to tear down the buildings and rebuild them than to rehab them, Myrick said.

— Historic district

The building is in Ithaca’s historic district, Myrick said, which would likely impact how the bar would be rebuilt. “If they do choose to rebuild them (the buildings), we would ask them to keep it to the original — especially the facade,” he said.

— Personal reaction to bar’s possible closure

“This is my neighborhood bar, and it meant a lot to me … It meant so much to so many people for so many years,” he said, “and places like that – they have an effect of tying you together.”

Photo courtesy Matt Marsh

Previous Ithaca Voice coverage of Chapter House fire


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.