Waterville, Minn. fire destroys 157-year-old building

Waterville, Minn. fire destroys 157-year-old building

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WATERVILLE, Minn. (KMSP) -

Beverly Brown Nelson is a woman who believes in miracles. She ran a ministry, food shelf and an outreach center in the ground floor of the historic Rogers Building, which was destroyed by a fire that broke out just after 6 a.m. Thursday in downtown Waterville, Minn. VIEW PHOTOS

She also lived in one of the building’s apartments.

“The minute I walked out my back door, there was black, sooty smoke and white, cloudy smoke, and I could barely breathe,” Nelson said. “It’s such a devastation. Lives have been spared and I thank the good lord for that.”

The miracle in this case: Everyone who lived in the building’s four apartments escaped without injury. The devastation: That they lost almost everything..

“I just grabbed my purse and that was it,” said Nancy Joyner.

6 fire departments responded to the fire, which started outside of an apartment in the back, near where the gas lines enter the building. Within a few hours the fire gutted the building so deeply that the facade had to be pushed down before it collapsed.

The nameplate on the front of the building shows the history. It was built in 1857 -- the year Waterville was founded. And at the end of the building’s life, there is some tragic irony.

“If you look on the facade of that building, that speaks a lot -- that was a founding father of the city of Waterville, L.Z. Rogers,” said Waterville Fire Chief Chris Meskan. “L.Z. Rogers was the first fire chief of Waterville, too.”

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