Local history lost in flames

The loss to arson of another structure in the complex that makes up the historic Diamond Match Company is tough to stomach. For exactly 100 years these classic buildings have stood in south Chico, mighty relics from a time long gone.

Five years ago Jeff Greening purchased the property. He later unveiled plans for a mix of residential and commercial use on the 145 acres. Representatives said the plan would incorporate three of what were at the time the four remaining original Diamond Match buildings. Ironically, the first Diamond Match building, constructed in 1903, burned to the ground a year later.

But in the last few months, after surviving a full century, two of those four remaining structures have been lost to flames—most likely the work of one or more arsonists. The latest loss, the cavernous lumber warehouse, is indeed painful. About 10 years ago the city of Chico paid $90,000 to purchase the lumber, including many huge timbers of high quality, that made up the warehouse in an attempt to preserve the building. If the building were torn down, city officials reasoned, the city would be able to salvage the wood. If the building remained and was incorporated into a new plan, the city considered the $90,000 a successful investment in saving the structure. Now that lumber, milled in nearby Stirling City decades ago, is gone.

More than 100 years ago Ohio Columbus Barber, founder and owner of the match company, came through Chico on a train. His visit led to the building of Diamond Match, Stirling City and the company town called Barber in what is now south Chico.

Arson is a hard crime to solve, and we don’t expect any arrests anytime soon. We can only hope the person or persons who did this simply didn’t understand the rich history behind these magnificent buildings.