Britain’s renowned Hastings Pier, a Victorian-era structure once dubbed the “Peerless Pier,” was 90 percent destroyed by fire early Tuesday.
Two local men, ages 18 and 19, were arrested on suspicion of arson after the blaze, according to the Hastings Observer.
The pier, which opened in 1872 as a holiday destination for tourists, was the work of Eugenius Birch, who designed 14 similar piers across Britain. Only seven remained before Tuesday’s fire, according to the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust.
The Hastings Pier was made of wood supported by latticed girders above cast-iron columns, something the trust calls "a lasting testament to the Victorian design genius." At its opening, the Earl of Granville proclaimed it “the Peerless Pier,” a pier without equal.
Entertainment on the pier adapted to the times. It hosted everything from dancing and music halls to slot machine gambling, rifle ranges and bowling alleys, according to the trust.
In the 1960s, iconic rock acts such as Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The Who played concerts on the pier.
It has recently fallen on hard times and was closed in 2006. The trust was trying to reopen parts of the structure and on Monday night met to finalize its business plan, according to the Hastings Observer.
Local officials held out hope it could be rebuilt.
"We are very disappointed that this fire has taken most of Hastings Pier's upper levels with it. The firefighters have worked heroically to try and contain the blaze but unfortunately because of the wind, the state of the pier and the danger of going on it, the fire really took hold," Hastings Borough Council President Jeremy Birch said in a statement posted on the Council’s website.
"The Council will now be looking at a new structural survey so that we can be absolutely clear on the degree of damage to the substructure. Then we can see what the future holds for this iconic building on our seafront."
Memories and tributes to the structure poured into the “Save Hastings Pier!” Facebook page Tuesday, including one from a woman who attributed her existence to the pier.
“If it wasn't for Hastings Pier I literally wouldn't be here, my Mum first met my Dad on Hastings Pier way back whenever it was. They would meet there regularly and in the caves for dances and ended up getting married and having me,” a poster identified as Lisa Lomas wrote.