Historic house burns

 

May 20, 2020

Ron Warnick

A Tucumcari firefighter monitors the smoldering remains of a fire the destroyed the Alex Street home Wednesday morning at 523 E. Main St. in Tucumcari.

A vacant century-old house once owned by one of Tucumcari's founding fathers, its former mayor and Quay County's first sheriff, burned to the ground Wednesday morning.

Tucumcari firefighter Dustin Hight, who was there at the Alex Street Home at 523 E. Main St. about noon Wednesday to make sure the smoldering remains didn't blaze up again, said fire was reported shortly before 4 a.m. that day.

Tucumcari Fire Chief Doug Hogan stated in an email that firefighters arriving at the scene found the house had heavy fire extending into the attic and roof.

"The house quickly became fully involved and collapsed approximately 25 (minutes) after arrival," he wrote. "The house is a total loss and is under investigation."

Rural Fire District 1 was dispatched for mutual aid. The blaze was brought under control a little more than an hour after it was reported.

Connie Loveland, executive director of Tucumcari MainStreet and a local history buff, said the fire is devastating for the city's heritage.

"He was the first mayor of Tucumcari," she said. "To lose that is sad. We've lost too many historical buildings."

Joy Young, a longtime board member of the Tucumcari Historical Research Institute, knew some history of Street's house.

"He met a local schoolteacher here, fell in love and built her that house," she said. "It was one of the first houses built in Tucumcari. I kept hoping somebody would come up with the money to fix that old house up. But that never did happen."


According to the county assessor's office, Kristian Kaseman of Pittsburgh had owned the property since July. Kaseman owns several other properties in Tucumcari, including the long-closed Crescent Creamery building on East Main Street.

County Assessor Janie Hoffman said the Street home had been vacant since she began work in that office in 1991.

The exact date when the home was constructed remains unknown. A 1909 photograph of it was posted in the "Tucumcari Memories: Then and Now" page on Facebook. A 1907 land-sale advertisement in the Tucumcari newspaper also mentioned "Alex Street's new house" on Main Street.

James Alexander Street, a Mississippi native, came to New Mexico as a cattle puncher at the Bell Ranch, according to a 1995 article in New Mexico Magazine. He and a partner ran a saloon in the settlement of Liberty, north of what became Tucumcari.

He became one of the co-founders of a tent settlement called Six Shooter Siding along the right-of-way for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. The town's name was changed to Douglas in 1901, then again was renamed Tucumcari.

Street was appointed as Quay County's first sheriff in 1903 and later was elected to that office for 12 years. He also was a member of the state's Mounted Police Force in the territory.

He also served as an FBI agent from 1920 to 1936. He solved the famous Osage murder case in Oklahoma, where five Native Americans of the Osage tribe were slain for their insurance and oil rights in 1926. The saga was made into a book, "Killers of the Flower Moon."


He served as Tucumcari's mayor in 1908, operated the town's first saloon - called the Legal Tender - and was a coal merchant.

Street died in an Albuquerque hospital in 1937, reportedly of a heart ailment and other complications. He was in his 60s. He is buried in Tucumcari Memorial Park.

 
 

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