Hudson -- A fire March 22 in Garrettsville, in neighboring Portage County, destroyed 13 businesses in a historical downtown block. The community plans to rebuild, just like Hudson did more than 100 years ago.
Hudson's historic downtown had its own Garrettsville in 1892, according to Gwen Mayer, archivist at Hudson Library and Historical Society.
On April 28, 1892, at 3:30 a.m., a fire was discovered in A.W. Lockhart's saloon where Kepner's Tavern is located today, according to information provided by Mayer. The flames spread to Miss Belle Mills' millinery store and C.H. Buss' general merchandise store.
"The guests of the Mansion House Hotel were awakened by the porter kicking in the doors, and some barely escaped in their night clothes," according to the Chagrin Falls Exponent newspaper at the time of the incident.
Winds sent the flames north and destroyed the businesses between the hotel and Clinton Street. The fire department, which arrived at 4 a.m. with a hand pumper, was unable to extinguish the flames, which threatened both businesses and residential buildings in the area. But an April downpour stopped sparks from doing further damage.
"When that block [between Park Lane and Clinton Street] was rebuilt, I think it was mostly brick, concrete and masonry used, to prevent such a thing from happening again," said Liz Murphy of the Merchants of Hudson. "There are charred beams in the Learned Owl building as a result of the heat from the fire."
Hudson's fire from 1892 and Garrettsville fire had similar conditions -- wooden building, winds and the destruction of an entire block of businesses, Mayer said.
"The issue is wooden structures and fire don't mix," Mayer said. "Now North Main [Street] in Hudson is the oldest section of our town, and we need to worry some about preventing fire in those structures."
Most of the block between Clinton and Owen Brown Streets remains wood construction, and many of the buildings are connected by a staircase, Murphy said.
"Our hearts go out to the businesses and the community of Garrettsville," said Jody Roberts, communications manager for Hudson. "We are very aware of the challenges that we, and other communities face with an historic downtown."
Roberts said the 1892 fire, the city has pursued ways to address and protect historic structures from fire with an inspection program and training firefighters for a downtown fire scenario.
"In 1979, we had to put that training and those skills to the test when the Curiosity Shop [now the Land of Make Believe] burned," Roberts said. "Through quick action by Hudson Fire Department, and the training firefighters had for exactly this type of situation, we were able to contain the fire to within the one store area."
The city has purchased special equipment, such as the aerial truck, for a business park/retail strip fire, Roberts said.
"Naturally, the Garrettsville fire again brings this to top of mind, and it is an excellent time to again review and recommend possible changes," Roberts said.
Interim City Manager Scott Schroyer will provide more information on fire training/prevention during a future city Council meeting, Roberts said.
Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing
Businesses destroyed in 1892 fire included:
A.W. Lockhart's saloon
Miss Belle Mills' millinery store
C.H. Buss' general merchandise store
Mansion House Hotel
Henry Wehner's dry goods store
Saywell's Meat Market
Ball's News Store
Sebastian Miller's shoe store
Hudson Post Office
Knights of Pythias Hall
Miller's Butcher Shop
R.T. Miller's Bakery
Dennis Joyce Grocery Store
C.A. Campbell's Harness Shop
Wendling's Meat Market
J. Cornelius' Barber Shop
Dr. Rogers and Dr. Starr offices
Bentley's Drug Store
Other small offices