Fire destroys historic Batesville building

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - A historic building in Downtown Batesville was destroyed by fire early Friday morning.

A police officer found the upstairs of the building on Third Street, commonly referred to as the old telephone building, around 3 a.m.

The building has long been a staple in the town.

Local historians say it was built in 1918.

Attorney offices currently fill the downstairs of the building, but more than 60 years ago, it housed the phone company and water department offices.

On the second floor was the telephone exchange system for the city.

"There were about 30 operators," Janice Gleghorn said.

Gleghorn was one of those phone operators.

She remembers manually patching calls to the city through on a switchboard.

"We would say 'number please' when a signal would come in our board," Gleghorn said. "Each operator had a board and when the signal came in we would say 'operator' and they would say '246 please' or '86 please' and then we would ring for them."

Gleghorn said women from all ages, between 19 and 70, worked the switchboards.

"I was teaching school at Cushman and I had an opportunity to move to the telephone company and it doubled my pay," she said. "It was one of the best paying jobs for a woman in Batesville."

She said if those old walls could talk, they would have a lot of stories to tell.

Gleghorn worked at the building for four years, until they got rid of phone operators in 1959, making many good memories in the building.

"It was like a social club, everybody knew about everybody's boyfriend and we had wedding showers and baby showers, we were close," she said. "It's a great loss. I have no idea what the dollar value would be, but it's a great loss."

The building is a total loss.

Although only the top floor caught on fire, the bottom floor was flooded with around 30 inches of water.

Batesville Fire Chief Brent Gleghorn said the cause of the fire is not known yet.

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