Just a few of the words members of the Between the Rivers Historic District were expressing on East Fourth Avenue Saturday, where the community gathered to see what was left of a historic home that was destroyed by a raging fire early Saturday morning.
The home at 313 E. Fourth Ave., believed to have originally been built in the 1870s, was owned by businessman and historic preservationist Ira Levy and his wife Libby.
Levy appeared calm and relatively collected as he was discussing the blaze with Rome Floyd Fire Chief Troy Brock around noon Saturday. Until he spoke of the work — and love — his wife Libby had put into the renovations over the past year. It was at that point that his voice started to quiver and one could almost see a tear in his eye.
Forget the fact that the couple had spend nearly $900,000 to date renovating the old home. He could not sweep away the emotions of describing his wife's reaction to getting the call around 5:30 Saturday morning.
"I brought Libby down and she is the one that is really broke up about it. It's really all her work." It was at that point that Levy almost broke down himself.
The Levy's had been renovating the old home for close to a year after saving it from the wrecking ball. The businessman, who has rehabilitated numerous buildings in downtown Rome over the last two decades, is always quick to point out that his wife has been more than just a partner in the interior design work associated with virtually all of his restorations.
The home, known for years as Tower Place, had been broken up into numerous apartments and was in such bad shape the previous owner had won permission from the Historic Preservation Commission to actually tear the building down and replace it with a new residence with essentially the same blueprint.
Levy and his wife couldn't stand the thought of having the original structure torn down, so he bought it in November of 2016. He jokingly called it a Valentine's Day gift for his wife.
The renovations had returned the home to a single family residence with six bedrooms with six-and-a-half bathrooms
Well over a year in the making, the restoration and upgrades were nearly complete.
"It would have really set off the neighborhood and helped the neighborhood out," Levy said.
Fire Chief Troy Brock said the blaze broke out around 3 a.m. and was whipped by strong winds that breezed through Rome Friday night following passage of a storm front. Firefighters were still pouring water on the blaze more than three hours after they got the call.
"The fire investigator for the insurance company is scheduled to come out Sunday," Brock said. His staff worked to keep onlookers at a distance Saturday afternoon as the blaze was the talk of the community.
The firefighting efforts also involved knocking down flames that damaged the adjacent home of Peter Gilbert at 311 E. Fourth Ave.
"Thank God nobody was hurt," Brock said. "It's a big loss for downtown."