By Don McAlavy: Columnist
Not many people today know that the old yellow brick courthouse built in 1911 in the middle of the courthouse block is not the first courthouse in Clovis.
The first courthouse was in the tallest building in Clovis, built in 1909, at 118 West Grand Ave. It was on the north side of Grand Avenue. Steeds Undertaking Parlors were just to the east of the courthouse.
This building was actually the three-story Owen Building. It caught fire in January 1910.
Night Marshal Bob Duncan discovered the fire about midnight and notified the fire department, which promptly responded, but not until the entire rear end of the building was a seething furnace.
The Portales Times covered the fire on Jan. 6, 1910, a couple days after the Owen Building fire. (At that time it was called a conflagration.)
The Santa Fe Railroad fire department, came to the rescue as usual, and with the two companies (Clovis and the railroad) applying streams of water, the fire was finally extinguished about 3 a.m. after a hard fight against odds.
The smoke was suffocating, it was reported, and it was with extreme difficulty that the records of the Curry County clerk’s office were removed from the second floor, also that of the county surveyor’s office from the third floor and office fixtures from the adjoining Pluckett Building, which housed a funeral home and, one story above, a hotel.
Several firemen were overcome by the dense smoke and had to be assisted to the fresh air. Some foolhardy person battered down the front doors and allowed air to get into the smoldering flames, which is probably more accountable for the heavy loss than any other cause.
The Clovis Supply Co., on the first floor, carried about a $60,000 stock of which only $14,000 was insured. The Owens Building, which was built at a cost of $10,000, was insured for $7,000 and damage was estimated by the owner at about $3,000.
Mr. Owen, it was said, regretted the loss of a piano that was located in the courtroom on the second floor and which was almost entirely destroyed by the water. Nobody knew why a piano was in the courtroom.
The owner at the time said the building “would be immediately re-plastered and otherwise repaired. O. L. Owen is thought to have been the owner.
Our present courthouse was built by the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s and is still a beautiful Art Deco enhanced building.