Fire destroys couple's vast collection

July 30, 2008 3:47:20 PM PDT
The ashes were still smoldering as Barry and Peg Cavanaugh talked about how the barn had been. "Filled with books," Barry said. An estimated 30,000 books and other collectables, most now ruined.

You can see all sorts of things in one charred pile; books about the fine arts, about the military, phonograph records from the 1960s and the 1930s. There is even a John Kruk baseball card. It is the collection of a lifetime.

The retired human resources director started as a teen. First, it was books about the Civil War, then it mushroomed.

Friends say Cavanaugh had some valuable first editions. He told of some early works by John Steinbeck.

"Some of it was picked up at yard sales 40 years ago, 30 years ago. Steinbeck was easier to come by at that time."

An excavator was brought in to dig down in the hopes of finding the cause of the yesterday's blaze, fought by firefighters from several Bucks County communities.

Scott Fleisher, the Plumstead Township Fire Marshal, says "There is a lot of debris in there. We have to start pulling that apart."

It's not clear if the barn's stonework can be saved. The Cavanaughs live in the house that connects to the barn. The feel is more 18th than 21st century.

Asked what he misses most, Barry Cavanaugh said not the books, but "just being able to live my life with my wife, in the way we want to live it."

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