DeLand's historic Hotel Putnam catches fire

DeLAND, Fla. — DeLand's historic Hotel Putnam caught fire Sunday evening, city officials said.

The fire at the vacant West New York Avenue building was reported shortly before 9 p.m., city of DeLand spokesman Chris Graham said.

Firefighters extinguished flames that tore through the top floors of the former hotel, which was constructed in 1923, Graham said.

Officials said each floor of the building has smoke and water damage. The structure's roof was charred and windows were broken.

Mohamed Rashad said he purchased the vacant building last month, one year after falling in love with the property.

"It's really sad, you know? I (would) figure people would want to cherish a building like that in their own town," he said. "It's a setback, yes. But, you know, we'll get through it."

Guy Lakeway said he worked at a restaurant at the hotel in the 1980s.

"Seeing it burning like this is kind of -- sad to see it go," he said.

DeLand fire Chief Daniel Hanes said there are no signs of arson other than the fact that the fire is considered suspicious in nature.

The building didn't have electricity or running water at the time of the blaze.

Rashad, who has plans to redevelop the property, said demolition work was underway in the building. He said trespassers have entered the vacant structure before.

He said the building is sound and the fire won't thwart his plans to restore the city landmark.

"Maybe (there's) a chance that the city can take the building and make something of it now," resident Dwight Chandler said.

The Florida State Fire Marshal continues to investigate the cause of the fire.