Arson Strikes Historic Church Street Home for Second Time in as Many Months

By Jeremy Coumbes on July 14, 2023 at 1:06pm

Fire was discovered coming from the first floor window of a house at 606 North Church Street Friday morning.

A historic home in Jacksonville was struck by an arsonist for the second time in less than two months this morning.

The Jacksonville and South Jacksonville Fire Departments were dispatched at approximately 8:00 am to the scene of a structure fire at 606 North Church Street. The three-story home, referred to by many as the old Capps House, was the subject of a suspicious fire during the early morning hours of Friday, May 26th of this year.

Jacksonville Fire Chief Doug Sills says this second occurrence of fire at the structure is being treated as an arson investigation. He says the damage to the structure was not as extensive this time.

The fire damage looks minimal at this time. We have found some evidence on scene that has led us to believe that this is an arson fire, again. So right now we have the arson investigator from the State Fire Marshal coming in to conduct another investigation and collect evidence.

Of course, as everyone’s well aware, the original fire on May 26th did extensive damage to the structure. Right now it looks like this is a second and separate incident from that original fire.”

State Fire Marshal Arson Investigators are investigating the second suspicious fire at 606 North Church Street in as many months.

Crews were on scene for roughly 90 minutes this morning as the fire was contained to a corner of the structure. In May, most of the rear section of the more than 100-year-old home was involved in the fire that worked its way up and across the third-floor roof structure to the front of the house causing heavy damage.

Jacksonville firefighters work to contain at fire in the back section of a house at 606 North Church Street the morning of May 26, 2023.

Known as the Capps Mansion, the large gray-colored house on the East side of Church Street dates back to 1890 and in 1902 was listed as being owned by William T. & James G. Capps of the Capps & Sons clothing factory which sits adjacent to the property at the northwest corner of North Church Street and West Lafayette Avenue.

File photo: 606 North Church Street, May 26, 2023.

The house was later owned by Charles R. Lewis of the Lewis Grain and Coal Company in 1915 and then was the home and practicing office of Dr. Edward Canatsey beginning in 1930 before it was converted into a convalescent home sometime later.

No utilities have been active at the home for a number of years. The owner of the property, who did not wish to speak on tape, said they had been keeping the house in good structural shape, hoping someone would want to take on a large renovation project.

Sills says the initial investigation by his department this morning showed more evidence that arson had occurred. “On the rear southern edge of the structure, it appears that there was some breaking and entering into the lower floor and the fire was intentionally set in that location.”

The fire is yet another in a series of suspicious fires that have occurred in the northeastern portion of the city dating back to May of 2021. in April of this year, a vacant house at 603 North Fayette Street burned for the second time after it first caught fire in March of 2022. The house sits one block west of the location of this morning’s Church Street fire.

A vacant house located at 603 North Fayette Street sits one block east of the house at 606 North Church Street. This house also burned twice in separate incidents that were both deemed suspicious.

During an investigation into the North Fayette fire in April, investigators reportedly found a can of Red & Tacky spray lube had been shoved into the wall with a small burn pattern around it with no spread, while the main burn pattern was found on another wall.

The Capps House property owner said this morning that the insurance company was finally coming to a resolution on the claim from the first fire back in May. He says too soon to tell if the house can be saved from being demolished, but it is highly unlikely at this point.

Chief Sills is again asking the public to be vigilant and keep a close eye on any vacant or unattended properties in their neighborhoods, and if you see anything suspicious to please call the police before a suspicious fire turns into a tragic event.

Anyone with information into this or any other suspicious fire is urged to leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers of Morgan, Scott, and Cass Counties by calling 217-243-7300, or online at, via the Morgan, Scott, Cass Crime Stopper mobile app, or by texting to the word “CRIMES” (274637).