Investigators said the fire early Wednesday morning at the Carver Community Action Agency in Galesburg was set intentionally.
Firefighters arrived on the scene at 424 Depot St. at around 2:30 a.m. and found flames coming out of windows on the east side of the building and smoke coming from under the roof. Fire Chief Tom Simkins said it took firefighters around an hour to get the fire under control. He said there were flare ups throughout the day Wednesday.
Simkins said the investigation into the fire found it started in two places: in the center’s office and in the main hallway.
The fire caused significant damage to the office, main hallway, and attic. The center’s gymnasium sustained smoke damage. The Galesburg fire and police departments are asking anyone with information on the fire to contact the Galesburg Area Crime Stoppers tip line at (309) 344-0044.
The Carver Center served as the home for the Knox County Boys and Girls Club. Chief Professional Officer Jeannie Shelton said she was well acquainted with the building.
“I grew up there, of course. Worked there as a teen under Willabell Williams. It’s just been part of my life,” Shelton said.
Shelton said club’s board members will meet after they assess the damage to plan the club's next steps.
Shelton said the club will carry on at two of its other locations: Iowa Court and McKnight St. Those facilities will host services that were being done at Carver Center, including tutoring services, free internet and computer usage, and after school snacks.
Shelton hopes Carver Center can be repaired so the Boys and Girls Club can return there.
“It’s possible, because all things are. Because we are insured, and that’s a blessing. And it’s possible it’ll never be what it was, because it has so much history. But definitely, I would hope that the community would rally around it,” Shelton said.
The Carver Center opened in 1944. In addition to being the home of the Boys and Girls Club, it has served as a USO center for troops and as a community center.
The fire is the second significant one this week in western Illinois. Investigators are still looking for the cause of the fire at the Smithfield Foods plant in Monmouth. That fire struck Monday and idled the plant's 1,600 workers for a few days, though the plant is expected to resume normal operations Friday.