Fire in U.S. Virgin Islands Destroys Historic Building

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) -- Flames destroyed a 150-year-old building Friday, it was the third fire this year in the historic district of Charlotte Amalie, the U.S. Virgin Islands' capital.

The roof and top floor of the yellow brick and blue chipped-stone house collapsed shortly after a fire broke out around 6 a.m., said fire chief Glenn Francis.

The house, appraised at between US$500,000 and US$1 million (euro415,180-euro830,360) was a total loss, fire officials said. It was not clear if the building was insured, Francis said.

The fire department is investigating the cause of the fire, he said.

Although the interior of the building had been restored several years ago, it fell into disrepair and became a haunt for vagrants, said historian Myron Jackson.

Jackson said he had hoped to turn the building into a museum.

''It was a storehouse for stolen items and chemicals. We never used the lights. We burned candles,'' said former vagrant Lamont Moore, 42, who said he had lived in the house for six months.

A fire gutted one wooden 19th-century building earlier this year and two wooden buildings from the same epoch in Charlotte Amalie's historic district in October 2004. The first fire was presumably set by a vagrant.

The historic district was almost completely destroyed by fires in 1804, 1805 and 1806.

The United States bought the three-island, U.S. Caribbean territory from Denmark in 1917.