Eau Claire Historic Home Burns Down on a Snowy Valentines Day Night

July 16, 2012 Travis Dewitz

A tragic fire that started shortly before 10pm on Valentines Day night in 2010 destroyed the 130 year old Henry Van Hovenberg House on 310 Lake Street, Eau Claire, WI. The home was built in the 1850’s and was on the Eau Claire Landmarks Commission’s Historic Homes list. The house since then was converted into nine apartment mainly rented by UWEC and CVTC students. The night was very cold as the Eau Claire Fire Department responded to the call. The home was fully engulfed and a second alarm was called. The Altoona Fire Department also responded as man power was needed. While the fire fighters worked to gain control of the fire, heavy snow started to fall. The snow blanketed over the frozen ice covered streets and sidewalks which made for very slippery conditions. Clouds of water vapors rose from the house as water was sprayed in. The water being sprayed started to freeze into icicles that hung on the nearby trees. As a photographer the scene was amazing. The action, human element, falling snow, rolling water vapor, and dramatic white and red lights made for incredible photos even though the devastating fire was very tragic. I am glad that no one lost their life in the fire even though losing your belongings and irreplaceable items like photos and family heirlooms is can be very painful. Fire crews had the fire under control around midnight but stayed on scene until 11:30am the next morning.  As always, I hope you enjoyed my photography and always be thankful of your local service personnel.


travis dewitz pines portrait suit thumb web PhotographTravis Dewitz is a remarkable photographer in the Chippewa Valley. He is well known for photographing local sceneries, landmarks, venues, buildings and people in various and ingenious ways. Though you not know him personally, his work provides a unique foundation of our local community and his photographs are unmistakable. Dewitz’s pictures are an impressive feat and preserve a moment; long after our travels are over, and our memories faded, photos are what remind us of the adventures we had and the connections to the people we met. Learn more about him here.


Travis Dewitz

I. Love. Photography. I love it. It lightens my heart, fills my soul, and allows me to capture life the way that I see it. I constantly yearn to show life in a way that hasn’t been seen before, to bring images to people in a fresh and innovative way. My favorite focus in photography, my specialty I guess you would say, is Railroad Photography & Art. Something about the rumbling of these great, big, beautiful machines. The way they shake the earth beneath you as they rumble by, how they invade your chest and you can feel the rumble inside you. The plumes of heat on a hot day represented in a heat wave. Snaking through a western valley, void of trees or any other distracting element. Just the train, by itself, in it’s own inexplicable beauty and power. From the time I was a child, they have captured my imagination. I’ve recently gotten into portraiture a bit, and I want to bring some of my experiences with trains to that arena. To capture the power of a person, the sadness, loneliness, omniscience, pride, love, & carefree spirit in a way that hasn’t been done before. I want people to look at themselves in a photograph I have taken, and see a side of themselves that they think no one else has ever seen. Dewitz Photography is all about capturing a moment in a way that has never been seen before, capturing a beauty that some never knew was even there.

Comments (6)

  1. Bobbie Sue Baker

    The last picture is fantastic, but you captured the entire scene beautifully.

  2. Travis Dewitz

    I think it would mean a lot to these men and women to see themselves serving the community. Make sure to let them know.

  3. Joshua Weister

    I lived in that house and was home when the fire started so I’ll never forget this night. Thanks for posting these pictures, brings back a lot of emotions all at once. I choose to take away from that night not only how much stronger I’ve become as a person, but also the overwhelming outpouring of support from complete strangers that helped us get through it all.

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