Although Paris was founded in the mid-1840s, many of its historic structures were lost in a fire that destroyed almost half the town in 1916. The blaze started about five o'clock on the afternoon of March 21, 1916, at the S. J. Long Warehouse near the southwest city limits. Its cause is unknown, but one theory is that a spark from a switch engine ignited dry grass near the warehouse. Winds estimated at 50 miles per hour soon blew the fire out of control as it burned a funnel-shaped path to the northeast edge of Paris.
Firemen from Bonham, Cooper, Dallas, Honey Grove, and Hugo, Okla., helped the Paris Fire Department battle the flames, which were visible up to 40 miles away. The blaze destroyed most of the central business district and swept through a residential area before it was controlled at about sunrise on March 22.
Property damage from the fire was estimated at $11,000,000. The structures burned included the Federal Building and post office, Lamar County Courthouse and Jail, City Hall, most commercial buildings, and several churches. Rebuilding was begun quickly as townspeople collected relief funds and opened their homes to the victims. A railroad and market center before the disaster, Paris soon regained its former prosperity.