A landmark in Milford’s downtown area became the victim of fire on Wednesday, December 26. Warren Furniture, a family-owned company that held the title of the longest existing business on Walnut Street, was severely damaged by fire. The State Fire Marshall’s Office is still investigating the cause of the incident. Neighboring businesses suffered minor smoke and water damage, while the furniture store sustained heavy damage.
“Milford Police were the first on the scene after a 911 call came into Kent Center reporting smoke inside the building,” Ryan Knowles, Information Officer for Carlisle Fire Company reported. “When Carlisle arrived on the scene, they found heavy smoke and extreme fire conditions on all three floors of the furniture store. It took the department three hours to bring the flames under control, mostly because of the heavy fire load, which included large amounts of furniture.” Ten surrounding fire companies assisted Carlisle Fire Company in bringing the blaze under control and containing the heaviest damage to the furniture store with minimal damage to neighboring businesses.
Warren Gibson Furniture opened at the corner of South Walnut and Causey Avenue in the building where EcoChic currently operates. The name of the company changed to Warren Furniture after Raymond Warren bought the company from his partner after World War II. In 1928, the store moved to its current location at 100 South Walnut Street where it has served the residents of Milford for over 84 years. Brett Warren, the grandson of Raymond Warren, is the current owner of the store, and recently commented that he was running out of room in the three-story building. Everything in the store appears to be a total loss due to fire, smoke and water damage.
The National Registry of Historic Places shows the building as “The Gebhart Building,” built circa 1910, describing it as a three-story, three-bay center entrance building with a flat roof with projecting cornice with modillion and decorative frieze. The description mentions that the north side contains an original elevator system.
“It is too early to tell right now whether we will be able to reopen as we are not even sure what the integrity of the building is at this time,” Mr. Warren said. “We have been on that corner for 84 years, starting with my grandfather, my father and now me. Marvel Agency is helping me tremendously with the many insurance issues that we must deal with, and once we have those issues nailed down, we will have a better picture of whether we can reopen. I definitely hope to be back on this corner as soon as we can.”
**Update from the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office**
On Friday, January 4 the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office released a statement that determined the building fire that occurred on Wednesday, December 26 in Milford, involving the Warren Furniture store was accidental in nature. According to the release, heavy heat and smoke severely damaged the 3 story historic business in the Downtown business section shortly after 9:00 pm the day after Christmas.
Deputy State Fire Marshals from both Kent and Sussex County converged for nearly 12 hours on the scene conducting the investigation. The investigation determined the fire originated in the rear of the first floor showroom, and was caused by an electrical failure in fixed branch circuitry. Investigators believed due to the location of the failure and type of building construction, that the fire burned for an extended time before being discovered. The Delaware Fire Marshall’s Office states that the business was not required to have a fire alarm system due to the age of the building and longstanding tenant. Damages were estimated at the time of the fire to be approximately $750,000.