We still don't know the cause of Saturday's fire in Fort Madison or what will happen to the old Metropolitan Hotel. But area businesses say there is hope for a new beginning.
"It was by far the biggest fire we've had here in many, many years," Mary Ottoson, with the Fort Madison Main Street said.
It took only 15 minutes for the three-story building to crumble to the ground near 6th St. and Ave. G Saturday morning.
"Very quickly, the building was a complete loss," Ottoson said.
Fort Madison firefighters stayed on scene Tuesday to control hot spots throughout the largest building on the block.
"It was a beloved building. It was beautiful in its heyday. It was the only historic hotel we had remaining in downtown," Ottoson said.
The Metropolitan Hotel took shape back in the late 1800s and served as a hotel until the 1940s. Since then, stores have come and gone on the first floor - the top two stories stayed vacant. That was all about to change with an almost 10 million dollar renovation plan.
"We've had a game plan to completely overhaul the downtown now for one and a half, two years. And we've been actively working on it for over 12 months now. And all of the sudden, it literally blows up in your face," Ottoson said.
Mary Ottoson with Fort Madison Main Street said businesses on this block hoped a grant to restore three historic buildings in the downtown would come through next spring. Despite the fire, the plan continues to move forward.
"This is truly going to revitalize our historic downtown by adding 45 new apartments alone, 10 new commercial units. That's about a quarter of our commercial space and more than 50 percent of what we have for upper story housing downtown," Ottoson said.
The hotel was privately owned by Jim Mitchell, so it's unclear what the next steps will be. For now, the focus is on relocating the two businesses engulfed in Saturday's fire, Cure Solutions and Book Nook.
"We have to get it cleaned up and somehow figure out what we can do with that site," Ottoson said.
The Fort Madison Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal's office continue to search for the cause of the fire. You're asked to report any information you may have to the Fort Madison Police Department at 319-372-2525, ext. 276.