After Garrettsville fire, Hudson looks back at similar disaster in 1892

City aware of challenges of protecting a historic district

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published:

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.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

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

Fletcher Jewelry

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

G.A.R. headquarters

Dr. Rogers and Dr. Starr offices

Bentley's Drug Store

Other small offices

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