Fire destroys mansion once owned by USA Today founder

Associated Press

Cocoa Beach, Fla. — A massive fire has destroyed an iconic Florida mansion once owned by USA Today founder Al Neuharth.

The 10,000-square-foot, oceanfront estate is a total loss, according to Cocoa Beach Fire Department Chief Ryan Duckworth. He added that no one was injured in the blaze, which was reported Tuesday night around 9 p.m.

On Wednesday morning, police cordoned off a road in front of the mansion, called the Pumpkin Center, to keep motorists away. Fire investigators were expecting to get a daylight view of the damage.

The cause remains under investigation.

Bystanders stood along the street Tuesday night, watching as firefighters battled the blaze.

Shey Anderson, who lives nearby, told Florida Today the fire grew rapidly.

“We saw the embers in the air and everything. It’s really sad. It’s been an iconic part of Cocoa Beach for a while now. I know that everybody knows the Pumpkin Center,” she said.

After Neuharth died in April 2013, his wife, Dr. Rachel Fornes, lived there with her children until the estate was sold.

According to a Florida Today story, Neuharth named the estate Pumpkin Center after a crossroads bar and eatery he liked in his native South Dakota.

Property owner Jeffrey Wells told the newspaper earlier this month that his intent was to allow people to hold weddings at the property, once renovations were complete.