TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — A historic landmark in Taylor burned down early Sunday morning, the city said.
The Taylor Fire Department responded to a call about a structure fire at 3:32 a.m., and when they arrived “the building was engulfed in flames,” per the city. Several fire crews responded to the fire, but the home burned to the ground.
An investigation is ongoing. The Taylor Police Department is considering the fire “suspicious,” though the State Fire Marshal did not find that accelerants were used, a city release said.
The building was home to Dr. James Lee Dickey, a physician and civil rights advocate in Taylor. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.
Dickey, who died in 1959, was the only African-American doctor in Taylor when he settled there after serving in World War I to help his widowed mother raise his siblings, according to the historical marker.
Some of Dickey’s local efforts included addressing Taylor’s public health needs, improving water supply, admitting African American patients to state tubercular clinics, leading an effort against a typhoid fever outbreak, working for school bond passage and heading efforts for local recreation facilities and federal housing, according to the city.
Dickey also founded the Taylor Negro Chamber of Commerce and was a Tillotson College trustee, where he attended college.
Taylor Mayor Brandt Rydell said the city and community will pursue ways to honor Dickey’s memory and life as “a champion for health, wellness, education, and civil rights.”
“It is heartbreaking to lose this important part of Taylor history,” Rydell said in a statement. “But Dr. Dickey’s legacy was far more than the physical structure of his former residence.”
The Taylor home, located at 500 Burkett Street, was undergoing restoration with plans to create the Dickey Museum and Multipurpose Center, the nonprofit said in a release.
A restoration project on the house began in 2018, and the project was in its final construction phase ahead of a 2023 opening, according to the nonprofit. People wishing to donate to recovery efforts can find more information at www.dickeymuseum.org.