Historic Greene County Poor Farm Destroyed by Suspicious Fire Overnight

By Jeremy Coumbes on August 18, 2022 at 11:27am

Photo Courtesy of Paul Davis.

A piece of Greene County history is gone after a suspicious fire consumed the old county Almshouse last night.

Chief of the Carrollton Fire Department Tim Thaxton says, he could see the glow from the fire when he stepped outside of his home a little before 9:30 Wednesday night. He says he was certain he knew exactly what and where it was when he saw it.

A week and a half ago his crews were called to the old Greene County Almshouse, also known as the Poor Farm House, when the house caught fire on Monday, August 8th. Thaxton says that fire was caught early enough to be extinguished.

The fire was classified as an arson after they discovered it started on the second floor of the huge Italianate structure that had been abandoned for decades approximately two miles northeast of Carrollton.

Thaxton says last night’s fire was altogether different though as the glow could be seen from miles away.

I’m told one of our firemen that lives down toward the Eldred area said that he could see it from his house, which that would be six miles from where that’s at. It was a very big fire, of course, it’s a very big old building. I was the first to arrive and when I got out there it was all completely involved [with fire] at that point already.

The roof had actually already caved in and I believe at least one of the floors had dropped into the basement, if not both of them. It was an old two-story and it was just a huge fireball going at that time.”

Chief Thaxton’s wife had called him after she saw the glow which turned out to be just before the call to dispatch came in. Carrollton Fire Department crews arrived fully on scene about ten minutes after that initial call came in, and worked to fight the fire for more than four hours.

No injuries were sustained in battling the blaze. Thaxton says due to the intensity of the fire combined with the known structural issues with the long-abandoned building, firefighters did not attempt to make entry into the structure and instead fought the majority of the fire from the department’s ladder truck.

File photo of the Greene County Almshouse in 2016.

He says very little of the historic building is left standing and it is a complete and total loss. “It’s pretty much all caved in. We actually used our ladder truck and the volume of flow out of that nozzle at the tip of it, you hit bricks and they just went flying. There were several of the walls that caved in on their own, but we kinda knocked a bunch of them down with trying to get to the fire with our ladder truck. So there is very little of the old structure left standing.”

Thaxton says more than 40,000 gallons of water were hauled in and dumped onto the structure to extinguish the blaze.

The large Italianate structure was built in 1869 and served as Greene County’s poor farm for welfare residents, shifting later to care for the elderly and infirm, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Investigators from the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office are expected to be on scene later today.