Ventura's oldest wood-frame home, known as the Cooper House, has been severely damaged in a fire.
The fire at the 111-year-old Victorian started about 10 p.m. Wednesday in the wooden floor at the base of a fireplace, spread up a wall and through the attic, damaging the 12-foot-high ceilings in four of the five rooms, investigators said.
The house at 163 Cedar St. was vacant at the time of the blaze, fire officials said. They are investigating whether the blaze was started by an electrical short.
Surveying the damage Thursday, owner Clark Brown said he was not sure how much it would cost to repair the house that his mother had lived in for 20 years and which was for sale for $189,000.
Fire officials estimated damage at $40,000, and a contractor hired by Brown said it would cost about $150,000 to return the house to its pre-blaze condition. The contractor, Bill Murdock, spent Thursday afternoon covering holes in the roof with tarps.
"All that gingerbread is fret work and hard to replace," said Murdock of J.F. Da Pra Inc., which restores Victorian homes. "A lot of it will have to be hand-created.
"The house is really shot," he said. "It would be easier to put a bulldozer through it than to preserve its historical value."
The house, rich in detail, was built in 1886 by farmer Charles L. Cooper, according to a spokesman for the Ventura County Museum of History.
The damage to the historic house could have been much worse had the owner not trimmed back a large pine tree recently, said Kathy Revard, coordinator of the city Fire Department's Fire Hazard Reduction Program.