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History of fires on the Denton Square

Update at 4 p.m. Thursday: We received an email today from a primary source who pinpointed another fire on the east side of the Square in 1956. 

Ebb Reeves wrote the following: "On a cold Saturday night in February in 1956 I was on duty in the drug store owned by my father, Reeves Drug Store, when a customer called my attention to flames in the back of the store. We ushered everyone out the front door, and watched the great firefighters do their work. The roof of the building collapsed, and the store was completely destroyed. We rebuilt in the same location. That building, 106 N. Locust St.,  is now occupied by the Jupiter House Coffee shop."

You can see the missing building in the 1956 photo at the bottom of Tuesday's story. 

Until Tuesday morning's pre-dawn blaze, it had been 23 years and two months since the last major fire on the Denton Square. 

The Lawyers Building fire, as it is sometimes called, claimed three buildings on the Square's west side in September 1994. The fire began about 2 a.m. on the first floor of the Lawyers Building. Erected in the 1880s, the building was renovated in 1982. At the time, the city did not require fire alarms, sprinklers or fire walls. 

At first, firefighters thought they contained the fire, which broke out near a water heater. But flames had spread up the walls to the top of the building. With flames leaping 20 feet in the air, the fire spread through the attic into two neighboring buildings, destroying those that housed Glen's Pawn Shop and T&L Shoes. 

Battling the blaze required most of the city's firefighting resources. All of the off-duty firefighters were called in. Fire departments in Lewisville, Argyle, Aubrey and Mayhill-Cooper Creek also sent help. A total of 75 firefighters were able to stop the blaze between the shoe store and the building, which is now home to UNT on the Square. 

By noon, crews were using heavy equipment to look for fires buried in the rubble. Initially, there was hope that some of the historic buildings could be saved, but they were eventually razed. 

The following year, Bob and Bette Sherman bought the lots and erected the Sherman Building on the corner in 1997. The building includes an historic marker with information about the three fires that occurred in that location. One of the largest fires, "Denton's Great Fire" of 1860, began at the same spot and destroyed all but one building on the west side. Fifteen years later, on Christmas Eve 1875, a fire destroyed buildings on the north side and the Denton County courthouse. 

According to city records and Denton Record-Chronicle research, here is a list of significant fires on the Square from 1860 to the present.

  • 1860 — Elm and Hickory Streets, west side

  • Christmas Eve 1875 — North side; Denton County courthouse destroyed

  • 1881 — North side, west end

  • 1881 — South side, middle half

  • 1884 — Lacy Hotel (now the Texas Building)

  • 1884 — Clyde Hotel, northwest corner

  • 1886 — Hymes Building, east side

  • 1887 — James Hotel, one block west on Oak Street

  • 1890 — Pierce Hardware, northeast corner

  • 1890 — Entire east side, except one building on north end (now Andy's and Paschall's Bars)

  • 1972 — South side, two buildings (now Lone Star Attitude LSA Burger Co.)

  • 1994 — Southwest corner; three buildings destroyed, including the 1883 Lawyers Building

    More information about the McClurkan building fire of 1914 is here: 

In 2015, another fire at 227 W. Oak St. damaged A Creative Art Studio.  The building did not suffer structural damage, and the business reopened.

Staff writer Julian Gill contributed to this report. 

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881.