Holding its own in the shadow of St. Mary Basilica, the Natchez Drug Company building anchored the corner lot of Main Street at Union. Replacing an 1828 building, the Masonic Lodge constructed the imposing Romanesque brick structure in 1891. In 1904, Natchez Drug Company president, John H. Chambliss, purchased the building, known as the Temple Opera House.

The narrative of this architecturally significant structure took a decidedly dark turn on Saturday morning March 14, 1908.

That March morning, Natchez Drug Company employees reported the smell of gas. Early in the afternoon, plumber Sam Burns arrived on the scene. Using a lighted candle, he checked for a gas leak. About 2:45 p.m., he, unfortunately, found one. The explosion ripped through the building.

In total, the explosion and subsequent fire took the lives of 11 Natchez citizens. The Natchez City Cemetery's signature monument, the Turning Angel, keeps watch over 5 of these victims. The lot remains empty to this day.


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