Two historic buildings destroyed by fire

PINCKNEYVILLE, IL (KFVS) - A fire on the Pinckneyville town square destroyed two of the towns oldest buildings. And took the life of 22-year-old Corey Shaw, a firefighter with the Du Quoin Fire Department.

Some of the first buildings built on the Pinckneyville town square were built out of wood. But a fire in the late 1800's nearly wiped the square out. So city fathers at the time adopted an ordinance that all future buildings would be built out of brick.

And two of the first buildings to be brick-built were the old First National Bank building and the Kunz Opera House.

"Mr. Kunz was a hardware man. And he just decided we needed some culture in Pinckneyville," said William Timpner with the Perry County Historical Society.

"He kept half of the main floor of the building as his hardware store. He rented out the other half for a clothing store and office space. The upstairs was the opera house.

Timpner says as best as they can determine the building was built around 1898.

"They would do comedy shows and a little bit of opera, there were musicals and they did their own plays," said Timpner.

But there were many firsts in the building for the early residents in the town.

"It was also used as a roller-rink, it was where the first indoor basketball games were played in Pinckneyville. It was also where the first silent movies were shown here in town. And there were even Masquerade Balls on Halloween."

Timpner says that some weddings also took place in the opera house and even a few high school graduations and a couple of prom dances.

"It was where you'd go gather after coming to town on Saturday nights. In the 1930s I remember it being a dance hall," Timpner said.

Then the music filtered away along with the shows after a Dr. Hirsch bought the building from the Kunz family in the early 1940s.

"He had all his merchandise displayed on the first floor. And then all of his stock was stored upstairs," said Timpner.

And now after the fire on June 17 that destroyed the old opera house and antique mall next door Timpner says a big part of the town's history also went up in the flames.

"It was a centerpiece for the town for many years. And now I fear that the buildings will not be rebuilt, and the space will just become another parking lot on the town square."

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