Onlookers devastated by historic St. Charles home engulfed in flames

Neighbors react to loss of historic mansion

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A large crowd gathered and watched as smoke billowed from the historic Montgomery-Grace home Wednesday morning (Feb. 20).

What started off as a seemingly small the fire raging inside the mansion grew through the afternoon. Firefighters did not gain control of the blaze until 1:45 p.m.

It was a sight many onlookers described as heartbreaking.

"It's just devastating for something like this to happen in the Garden District to one of these historic homes. You just hate to see it happen," Kevin Boudreaux said.

Boudreaux said he was walking in the area when he saw smoke billowing.

"I'm always walking up and down these streets, and I'm always up and down St. Charles street. You know, all of these homes just kind of become special to you," Boudreaux said.

Some held back tears watching the mansion with so much history go up in smoke.

"We have watched the story of this house and watched the reception, and watched the stopping of Rex every year, and this is a profound tragedy," Kurt Owens said.

Devin Henry said when he left his home this morning, he didn't expect the fire to get this bad.

“When I got to work, the other residents started calling me, saying ‘Hey you might want to get back, it’s getting more out of hand,’” said Henry, “This is a major development. I mean, this is an entire home next door to ours caught on fire.”

Henry said he’s lived next to the historic home for eight years.

“On Tuesday mornings it’s always quite a spectacle to watch the Rex toast here,” Henry said. “They’ll stop for about 30 minutes. The parade route will detour and come on this side and they’ll do the toast.”

The 7-alarm fire also filled social media sites. Neighbors and bystanders captured the fire as it tore through the historic home.

John Abston said he woke up to sirens.

"From the balcony of our house, I could look over and I could barely distinguish the smoke from the fog. That's how small it was, and obviously it grew," Abston said.

As someone who lives in the neighborhood, Abston said he knows the significance of the Montgomery-Grace home.

"It's awful to see one of these old houses. When my mom visits, she likes to ride the street cars just to look at these old houses, and so it stinks to see one go up," Abston said.

"Every year there are fabulous receptions. The stairwell, the house itself is historic and substantial and beautiful," Owens said.

New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell called the fire catastrophic. Others called it devastating.

“We pass by them so much that I take them for granted and forget to look up and look at them. I mean, it’s all up and down St. Charles as everybody knows, and this was a beautiful one,” Abston said. “You could gut it and try and restore it, but obviously, it will never be the same.”

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