Accused arsonist destroys historic treasure


NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Many residents in North Tonawanda agreed that a home at 208 Goundry Street was beautiful. Now most of the structure is charred from a fire that tore through the structure this week.

It’s one of the properties Christopher Syracuse admitted to destroying. Police said the 26-year-old started nine fires in six different locations this week. Now the apartment home has been declared a total loss.

“That house was irreplaceable and the history that goes with it,” said Donna Zellner Neal, the Executive Director of the North Tonawanda History Museum.

The house was known as the Kent Mansion and built in 1889. Neal added that architect Stanford White designed it. “It had Tiffany windows, stain glass windows, had a lot of balconies. It was a typical Victorian style home,” he said.

Even after the fire some of the original features such as a barreled ceiling, windows and ornate fireplaces still stand.

Firefighters told News 4 the home is a total loss. It’s now up to the owner to decide whether the structure will be torn down.

PHOTOS | See photos of all the fires allegedly started by Syracuse last week

Many neighbors are upset this historic treasure is so heavily damaged.

“It was a symbol of what used to be in this community and it’s no more” said Susan Wilke of North Tonawanda.

“It’s just really unbelievable that of all the places in the city it would be one like that, which we would lose forever” said Neal.

Syracuse told police he set fire to a vehicle near the home early Tuesday morning. The flames spread to the house. It’s the biggest fire Syracuse is accused of setting.

He faces numerous arson charges and could also get a federal charge. U.S. Attorney, William Hochul explained that “generally a federal offense occurs when there is some sort of fire in a commercial premise. In this case you know among the fires there was one structure which had renters or potential tenants. That sort of house or structure would quality for possible federal law violation”.

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