On April 23, 1910, Lake Charles bore witness to a fire that spread the width of two blocks and a half mile long. The fire started behind a soda shop and the French Opera House on a Saturday afternoon. After raging for four hours, the fire consumed 109 buildings, both commercial and residential, and caused property damage in the amount of $750,000 (in 1910 currency). Some of the commercial buildings that were destroyed included the Courthouse, the City Hall, the St. Claire Hotel, the Catholic Church, its school, the convent and the rectory. Rising from the ashes, Lake Charles was reborn.
The story of the Phoenix Building cannot be told without first knowing about the fire. After all, the building is meant to be a testament of rising from the ashes! As a nonpracticing lawyer, Richard saw the potential in property located across from the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse. As a member of the Downtown Development Authority, he viewed the site as a prime location for offices. He chose a design for the building that would complement the downtown “building-scape,” while serving as a memorial of sorts for the Great Fire of 1910.