05/26/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pittsboro Courthouse FIRE: Site Of John Edwards Sex Tape Debate Severely Damaged

A severe fire engulfed the Pittsboro courthouse last night, causing serious damage to the historic building in North Carolina that housed debate over a John Edwards sex tape.

After the FBI obtained the Edwards sex tape, a judge demanded in February the Pittsboro court put them "under lock and key" until the lawsuit was resolved.

Earlier this month, a former Edwards aide narrowly avoided jail time after his handling of the tape.

Despite the courthouse fire, materials from the John Edwards sex case were safe, locked away in a separate location, according to the AP.

Built in 1881, the Pittsboro courthouse had undergone renovation recently, the Winsten-Salem Journal reports. Everyone was safely evacuated and the cause of the fire is unknown at this time, the Journal adds.

The Chatham County, North Carolina, locale was dubbed by the Carrboro Citizen as "Pittsboro's most distinguished landmark."

More on the fire from the Associated Press:

PITTSBORO, N.C. -- A historic North Carolina courthouse where the mistress and a former aide of John Edwards have been fighting over a sex tape is severely damaged by fire.

Multiple media outlets reported the clock tower of the Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro collapsed overnight. Firefighters early Friday were still pouring water on hot spots from the blaze that started Thursday afternoon.

The courthouse has been the scene of hearings about a video purportedly showing former presidential candidate John Edwards in a sexual encounter. Edwards' mistress wants the tape and other personal possessions back from a former Edwards aide.

Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones told The Associated Press the materials in the case were safe in a vault away from the courthouse.

The cause of the fire hasn't been determined.