Fire destroyed the main shelter building at Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site in rural Ellis Grove shortly before midnight on Halloween night, the North County News reported.
The Ellis Grove Fire Department received assistance from the Evansville and Chester fire departments in battling the blaze.
“It was fully engulfed when we arrived,” Ellis Grove Fire Chief Michael Jackson told the newspaper, adding it appears to have been accidentally set after burning embers dumped in a nearby trash can caught fire and spread to the building.
The site’s main shelter was constructed in 1942, and provided a scenic overlook of the river. Fort Kaskaskia Historic Site park ranger Chester Wingerter said the shelter building was a popular place for weddings and other social functions over the years. He estimated it brought the site about two-thirds of its visitors.Photo taken by Fort Kaskaskia Historic Site park ranger Chester Wingerter upon his arrival at the scene of Wednesday’s fire.
“It’s a great loss to both this site and this area,” Wingerter said. “This place means a lot to us.”
The North County News reports that the organization Save Illinois History is collaborating with the Randolph County Historical Society to set up a fund where people can donate to a rebuilding effort for a new main shelter.