The Bank Buildings right in the heart of Belfast was one of the city's best known landmarks. The listed five-storey edifice, home to a large Primark store that was undergoing a £30m extension, is now a fire-ravaged shell and may have to be torn down.
Part of Belfast's history, it was reduced to almost ashes by yesterday's blaze.
The original building was erected in 1785 and was first of all a bank, then the residence of the Bishop of Down and Connor.
It also had a gruesome past, with the last public execution carried out on its doorstep in 1816.
The current building was constructed in 1900 and its association with clothes retailing has been almost continuous.
Our first thoughts have to be with the 350 employees who now face an uncertain future. Yesterday morning they were looking forward to new recruits joining the company to staff the extended store. This morning they wonder if they will be looking for jobs.
The expenditure on the extension was a mark of faith by the Dublin-based company in its Belfast operation. At a time when retailers everywhere are feeling the pinch, this blow to the firm could not have come at a worse time.
The Belfast outlet, one of 362 in Ireland, the UK, Europe and America, had a customer footfall that many of its competitors on the high street could only look at with envy, and there is no doubt that the firm knows its market well.
There will be great sadness among its many customers at yesterday's inferno.
A significant number of people would have been looking forward to visiting the store for those last minute back-to-school essentials, and now will have to find alternative value-for-money outlets.
If the store has to be pulled down, it will be another part of old Belfast that has bitten the dust in the city centre.
Former streets, homes and independent retailers made way for the large CastleCourt shopping centre nearby.
The thirst of developers for new opportunities is constant. Sometimes the march of progress and the loss of historic buildings goes almost unnoticed. That is something we should be constantly on guard against.
Belfast has a long and glorious commercial history and its most famous buildings should be saved for posterity where possible.
Sadly, in all probability, nothing can save Bank Buildings, but hopefully the retailer will rise from the ashes on this site.