A big fire damages a historic mansion in St. Paul

Firefighters sent 10 rigs to the blaze.
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A major fire burned a stone mansion in one of St. Paul's historic districts Tuesday. 

The late morning blaze in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood sent up plumes of dark smoke that were visible downtown. 

The fire department said via Twitter the earliest responders tried to put out the fire from inside the home, which is at 251 Dayton Ave. But as the condition of the building got worse, the firefighters said they were "going defensive" and focused on attacking the flames from outside.

At one point there were 60 firefighters and medics at the scene along with 10 fire rigs, the department said.

The home dates back to the Civil War

The house is part of St. Paul's Historic Hill District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The core of the home was built in 1864 for an owner named Lasher.

But its most distinctive features – a tower and battlements on the roofline that give it the look of a castle – were added when Stanford Newel bought the home in 1886 and expanded it to eight bedrooms, Big Boy Travel says.

The website Highway Highlights ranks it among the 50 Coolest Houses in Minnesota.

Alida Purmalietis told the Pioneer Press her parents bought the house in 1975 and said she grew up there, adding that her father – a retired carpenter – “spent his whole life working on this place. There’s a lot of history. The woodwork was irreplaceable.”

The damage

By 1 p.m. the department said firefighters had extinguished the bulk of the blaze and were back inside the house putting out hotspots. 

Two cats died in the fire, but there are no reports of any people injured. 

St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard told the Pioneer Press the second floor, which is where the fire started, collapsed onto the first floor. 

The cause of the fire is being investigated

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