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Insiders, Dec. 27

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We've heard some grumbling over the brief fire last week at the new Richard S. Arnold Federal Courthouse on Capitol Avenue. Apparently, the Fire Department's zeal to enter the building caused more damage than the fire itself, with firefighters breaking a large panel of glass near the vestibule and ripping the loading dock doors on the older portion of the courthouse off their hinges — even though the building is equipped with keyed “Knox Boxes” that allow firefighters to gain emergency access.

The fire started in a cooling tower on the roof of the old courthouse, where workers had used cutting torches earlier in the day to demolish a cooling tower. A passerby noticed smoke at 9:35 p.m. and the fire was out 40 minutes later.

Fire Marshal Gary Jones, who was at the fire, said he didn't know the building was equipped with Knox Boxes. When firefighters approach heavy smoke and visible fire, time is of the essence, he said. “You can replace a door, but minutes are very, very valuable — minutes and seconds. It doesn't take a fire very long to become fully involved.”

Making a splash

The Peabody Hotel has committed $250,000 to the city's Adventure Park playground in Riverfront Park. The interactive playground — which, when the city's labor is figured in will be an investment worth about $1.5 million — will feature a 40-foot-wide splash pool, to be named for the hotel. Peabody general manager Gregg Herning said the hotel will commission a sculptor to create bronze ducks to boost the hotel's connection to the park.

Seen this winter

Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, which is being built by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, revealed another of its acquisitions Dec. 20 when it published an online Christmas card on its blog. (The card was mailed to select friends of the museum.) “Winter Scene, View Near Clarkstown” is a small watercolor and pencil made circa 1860 by New England painter John William Hill. The museum will open late in 2009.

Secret Santa

What were all the Secret Service guys doing outside River Market ArtSpace last Friday night? Helping Bill Clinton play Santa. Clinton, in town for the graduation ceremony at the Clinton School of Public Service, made his yearly after-hours visit to the gallery, accommodated by owner Debra Wood. Wood, ever discreet, declined to say what Hillary Clinton is getting for Christmas, but did say the former president bought objects in glass, wood and ceramics.

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