A fire destroyed part of the abandoned St. Ann’s hospital, which had been purchased by CitySquare, Sunday afternoon.
The fire started at about 2 p.m. Sunday on the southeast side of the building. A neighbor across the street from St. Ann’s, Diana Longoria, said her husband saw the fire and told her to call the fire department. She said the fire started on the southeast side of the building, then spread north to the two-story stone portion of the building.
Winds were blowing from the south, pushing the flames north, but Longoria’s house stood across the street on the east side.
“I was worried about the people that live on the other street,” Longoria said.
Abilene Fire Department deputy chief Mike Burden said no one was in the building at the time of the fire. He said the crews contained the fire before the wind could blow it toward the houses to the north.
Highland Church of Christ provided funds when CitySquare purchased the old hospital in the fall with plans to turn the building into a homeless housing initiative. Ben Siburt, executive minister at Highland, said the fire did not damage the main part of the structure. The cause of the fire is unknown as there was no electricity in that part of the building, Siburt said in an email to church elders.
“It may adjust the nature of the project in positive or challenging ways,” said Siburt. “I do not anticipate it hindering the restoration project in any significant way at this point.”
Before Highland and CitySquare purchased the building, several graduate students had considered purchasing it. Shannon Kaczmarek, director of Student Advocacy Programs, said the group, which included her husband at the time, wanted to move into a low-income neighborhood.
“They decided to live more intentionally in community with one another, so they all lived in the same house together,” Kaczmarek said. “There was a lot of interest about the possibility of purchasing it, but nobody in that group had funds.”
Kaczmarek said the group changed its goal and focused on living in that neighborhood rather than buying the building. She and her husband now live in the neighborhood near St. Ann’s.