Canal Winchester's historic canal era lumber yard set ablaze Dec. 8 will be demolished per orders from the State Fire Marshal.

Canal Winchester's historic canal era lumber yard set ablaze Dec. 8 will be demolished per orders from the State Fire Marshal.

The two-alarm fire was ruled arson after an investigation by the Madison Township Fire Department with support from the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office and Fairfield County Sheriff's Office according to Madison Township Fire Chief Robert Bates.

"We have identified the suspect, or suspects, and will continue the investigation," Bates said. "However, at this point charges have not yet been filled."

The Guernsey Bank has owned the property since 2007, shortly after Davis Paints shuttered its business.

Several redevelopment ideas failed to pan out for the location, and last year the bank applied for a permit to raze the site.

Canal Winchester resident Patrick Shea filed an injunction against the permit, stating that the bank was in breach of contract for a pending sale to Shea.

After nearly a year of court battles, Shea was victorious and able to complete the purchase; however, it was too late to save the structures.

According to Shea, his intention for the property was to restore the structures and repurpose them.

Speaking to council last April, Shea said, "I think this is a beautiful historic property that should be restored and repaired and used as mixed commercial with possible residential space."

At the Jan. 28 Canal Winchester Landmarks Commission meeting Don Miller, Shea's father-in-law, said they would donate whatever can be salvaged of the structures to the Canal Winchester Historical Society but would not be allowed to keep the buildings standing because of the state Fire Marshal's ruling regarding the integrity of the structures.

"We'd be happy to work with you on this because it's a nice piece of history and we'd have liked to have saved it all if this hadn't happened," Miller said.

"Our original intent was to save all the buildings, but we've been told they're unsafe and have to come down."

Commissioner Mike Ippoliti, who also serves as the president of the historical society, said he believes he can get some people to help with locating artifacts to save, but wasn't convinced the resources were available to salvage whole buildings.

Other commissioners expressed interest in trying to salvage the original blacksmith shop that once sat adjacent to the canal.

"I know someone who salvages old barns here in town who might be interested in taking this on," said Patrick Lynch, a commission member.

Commission member Will Bennett cautioned Miller and city staff not to rush too quickly into the demolition.

"I'm all for salvaging what we can and I'm glad to help, but we also need to make sure it's safe to do that," Bennett said.

"Right now, with things in a state of flux, we need to make sure we do the right thing with saving what we can and doing what we need to."

Miller said once the demolition is completed the site will be green space until a redevelopment plan can be agreed on.

"We made this contract over a year ago and it hasn't been a pleasant situation getting Guernsey Bank to the closing table," Miller said.

"There's been this legitimate contract that, had it gone through when it was supposed to, we'd already be restoring those buildings instead of knocking them down," Miller said.

"Whatever we end up doing there, we'll make sure it is going to be well received by the community."