National monument under investigation by Rochester Fire Department and Arson Task Force
ROCHESTER, NY. (WHEC) — In the early hours of Sunday morning, the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum, a national historic site located on Madison Street in the heart of Rochester, was in flames.
Tonight investigators are looking for answers. As the investigation moves forward, News10NBC’s Jenny Ly visited the museum to survey the damage and find out what the restoration process will look like.
“The fire started at the bottom corner of the door and moved up. Fortunately, the smoke from the fire got through the door and ticked off the alarm that’s just inside the door very early on, which is what got the fire department here so fast,” said Deborah L. Hughes, president and chief executive officer of the National Susan B. Anthony House.
Just shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday morning, Rochester firefighters received a call for the fire alarm activation, according to a statement. Within minutes, firefighters arrived at the scene and reported that the back porch of the historic house was “fully involved.” Now, Hughes and her team are trying to piece together parts of history, while also making sense of the act.
“We’ve had some footage and it’s apparent that the fire was set by someone and there’s a lot of anger,” Hughes said.
Over the next several weeks, Hughes says there is a lot of work that must be completed.
“We do have adjustors and specialists of different levels coming in. We’ll have a conservator come in to make sure none of the oil paintings will need to be removed, cleaning the air with a machine called ‘air scrubbers,’” Hughes added.
According to the Rochester Fire Department, crews rescued 14 pictures and a statue.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the department today. Certainly, the building construction played a factor in the lack of spread of the fire – the heavy doors between the back porch and the inside. But, the work that was done by the Rochester Fire Department and the protectives unit, which is a volunteer staff played a major part in getting to the room that was just off the porch,” said Andrew Lonthair, deputy chief of the Rochester Fire Department.
Hughes says the support received in just 24 hours has been overwhelming, and she is hopeful to start restoring history.
“The community response has been really wonderful. People have been very sweet and supportive of the staff individually. People connect with this physical space,” Hughes said.
The ongoing investigation involves both the Rochester Fire Department as well as the Arson Task Force. There is surveillance footage that caught everything from the moment it began, but because of the active investigation, that foot is not available nor released to the public yet.