|THE GREAT FIRE OF 1966|
By Bob Weaver
Aftermath viewed from Mill Street looking toward
Main Street, Super-Service Building Visible to right
Bystanders survey damage, viewed from Main Street
with Court Street to left, Rainbow Hotel to right
Remains of J & B Drugstore viewed From Main Street toward
Rainbow Hotel and Oren Atkinson home In background
View from Mill Street looking toward Main Street,
Courthouse and Masonic building visible to right
Grantsville's last big fire was in January 17, 1966, taking out six businesses, nearly destroying a seventh and leaving six families homeless.
Town residents had predicted that the Odd Fellows building on Main street would go up in flames, and that it would take part of the town with it.
That prediction came true, during a sub-freezing winter night.
Now town residents say the old Rainbow Hotel is a fire trap, saying if it catches on fire it will take a significant number of buildings with it. The Rainbow was at great risk of burning in 1966, but efforts by several fire departments kept it in check.
Town officials have been unable to legally hold the owner responsible for its' demolition, or come up with funds to remove it.
The Rainbow, built in the early 1920s and saved from the
fire of '66, is still standing on Court Street in dis-repair ...
... is a now a threat to surrounding houses and businesses
In '66 flames were discovered about 8:30 p.m. in the bottom floor of the three-story Odd Fellows building occupied by Hardman's Restaurant, quickly spreading to an adjoining frame building long-known as Ward's Pool Room.
Fire roared down Main Street spreading to Gunn's Store and another building owned by Foster Poling and occupied by Garland's Grocery. Soon it spread to the J&B Drug Store, completely destroying it.
Also destroyed was Air Rifle Headquarters and the residences occupied by Mrs. C.S. Gladwell, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Sturm, and Mr. and Mrs. Willis Haught, and another house vacated only two weeks earlier by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Stevens. The Quality Shop building was also severely damaged, and the stock in that store was damaged by smoke and water.
The Calhoun Super-Service building, now an auto parts store, was on fire at least three different times and the Masonic Lodge building was threatened.
With no loss of life or serious injuries, damage estimates reached nearly $1 million.
With low water pressure and electric power off, the situation worsened. Water could not be pumped to refill storage tanks, and firefighters went to the Little Kanawha River to draft for fire fighting.
Fire departments responded from neighboring towns, including Pennsboro, Harrisville, Smithville, Elizabeth, Spencer, Glenville, Ripley, Weston, Burnsville. Assistance was also given by South Penn Oil and the Dowell company.
Residents praised the firemen and their neighbors for their valiant efforts to save the town from further destruction.
As a Spencer fireman, I was in an old Power Wagon truck with a jenny-rigged Navy pump, the vehicles top speed was about 30 miles per hour. After the slow trip from Spencer, we backed the truck with pump into the Little Kanawha and pumped lots of water.
Prior to 1966, the town's previous "great fire" was in 1919, when an entire block was destroyed. That area was in the block where Calhoun Banks was located.