Early morning fire heavily damages one of Albany’s oldest houses; witnesses report seeing lightning strike

Posted April 9, 2014 at 2:08 pm



Thursday morning of last week, April 3, 2014, a spring storm swept through Clinton County and according to witness accounts, a lightning strike occurred at a home located at 402 Tennessee Rd., just across the street from Super City Mart.

Albany Fire Chief Robert Roeper said witnesses at Super City Mart reported seeing the lightning hit in the vicinity of the home at around 5:30 Thursday morning. At the time of the strike, witnesses said they thought it had struck the trees in the back of the house.

Around 6:34 a.m., Roeper said, the same witnesses reported having seen smoke coming from the residence.

“The lightning hit the flue on the house,” Roeper said “The flue eventually fell and there was significant damage to the old part of the house.”

Roeper said the home was unoccupied at the time of the lightning strike and no one was injured.

Firefighters arrived on scene shortly after the call came in around 6:34 a.m., but by that time the blaze had already spread and signicant damage to the home had already occurred.

The house is known as the Ballenger House and is believed to have been built before 1900, according to Albany attorney and local historian David Cross.

Originally it was the home of prominent Albany businessman and political figure F.M. (Milt) Ballenger.

Ballenger served as postmaster at both Albany and Savage from 1889 to 1899. He also served as Master Commissioner of Clinton Court from 1894-1903.

Ballenger was the father-in-law of two prominent attorneys in the area, Elza Bertram and Oscar B. Bertram.

Elza Bertram built what is known now as the Maple Hill Hospital as his private residence.

Bertram practiced law in Albany and was elected to the State Senate in 1909 and made an unsuccessful race as the Democratic nominee for Congress in 1910.

Upon the death of F.M. Ballenger, he willed the property to his sons, omitting his two daughters because they both had “noble husbands” as stated in his will, according to Cross.

The last full-time occupants of the home were Norton and Mary Duvall Ballenger.

The large, two-story house in south Albany known as the Ballenger house, was heavily damaged by flames last Thursday morning, following a lightning strike that was reported by witnesses across the street at Super City Mart.

The Albany Volunteer Fire Department was on the scene for over three hours. In the above photo, fire fighting crews can be seen working on both sides of the house after the blaze had been brought under control.

At right, one of the crews working on the north side of the home, checks for remaining blazes in the second story section of the structure.

The home is believed to be one of the oldest homes in Albany.