Fire destroys historic Libby barn in Detroit

Posted Nov. 09, 2008, at 10:11 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:16 a.m.

DETROIT, Maine — The Libby barn, a well-known landmark in the area, caught fire Sunday afternoon and burned to the ground, taking a nearby garage with it, but sparing the nearly 100-year-old farmhouse.

Genevieve and Richard Emery owned the property for 38 years and sold it nearly five years ago to Pasquale and Yolande Aurgemma. The couple turned the North Road house into a bed and breakfast called the Restful Nest Inn and were in the process of opening an Italian restaurant in the barn.

“We lived there, and we raised our family there,” Genevieve Emery said. “The Libbys were the original owners. It was built in the early 1900s by Betsy Libby’s grandfather. We’ve built across the street.”

Emery said she and her husband had just returned home around 2:45 p.m. when the fire began.

“I heard what sounded like a bullet going off,” she said. She looked out the window and saw her son, who lives next door, watching black smoke escape from the barn.

“The windows blew out … and within 15 minutes it was” in flames, Emery said.

“I’m still shaking,” she said. “It’s just devastating. It’s terrible. We’re not going to get over it for a long while.”

While his property burned, Pasquale Aurgemma told a Bangor Daily News photographer that he didn’t know how the fire started. He said the barn was filled with equipment purchased to start a restaurant along with ATVs, a Jeep Cherokee, a John Deere tractor and other items.

“The barn and a garage are both gone,” Emery said. “The house, they say, is all right. One room upstairs is damaged. The outside at the end of the house is damaged,” but should be fixable with new siding.

The Aurgemmas had insurance, but it will not cover the loss, she said.

“There wasn’t many barns that were as beautiful as that one,” Emery said.

The good news is that no one was injured, she said.

Firefighters from Detroit, Canaan, Corinna, Hartland, Newport, St. Albans, Pittsfield and Plymouth converged on the area to fight the blaze. The roadway, also known as Route 100, was blocked while firefighters worked.

Another neighbor, 73-year-old Joyce Jones, said, “I was talking to my sister [on the phone] because it’s my birthday, and I kept hearing vehicles. I pulled back the curtain, and the flames were huge. It was a big fire.”

“I just can’t believe that it happened,” Emery said. “They are just wonderful neighbors.”

An investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office was on the scene Sunday and will return Monday.

Video footage from the fire:

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