Fire destroys Chester landmark

  Below is a newspaper clipping I found in Ted Spaulding’s donation. So you can follow along I’ll explain the locations of businesses mentioned. This fire occurred Jan. 18, 1920.

  The Hotel Fullerton on the Green was run by John Rowell. In the hotel were two banks. The National Bank was in the left end of the hotel. The Savings Bank was located in the right end. The Post Office and a barbershop were in the hotel.

  Both Chester fire companies were on the scene of this fire. CFD Aid Number 1 was located in the stone building near the swinging bridge on School Street. They were the first on the scene. Yosemite Engine Company soon arrived from the Depot.

The Hotel Fullerton circa 1910. Photo provided by Robin Rowell Smith.

  As you look at the photo of the Hotel Fullerton, the drug store is on the right. Richardson’s store was where Phoenix Books Misty Valley is today. Wiley Hall was over Carpenter’s store or what recently has been Moon Dog Cafe.

  This fire was the third hotel to burn on this site. The American House, built prior to 1800, was destroyed by fire in 1858. The second fire in June 1888 destroyed the Central Hotel.

  Chester Historical Society owns the original architect’s blueprints for this third hotel. The floor plans reveal this was a spacious and luxurious hotel.

  Located on the Green in front of the hotel was a cistern for water. This was a circular well, eight feet or more in diameter with stoned up walls. This cistern supplied the water to fight the fire. In recent years, this well partially fell in. The town ordered it filled in.

Hotel Fullerton ruins after the fire. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society.


“The worst fire that has happened in town for many years occurred Sunday morning when the Hotel Fullerton building, which contained the Savings Bank and National Bank in one end and the post office in the other, was totally destroyed. It was discovered at about 4 a.m., around the fireplace in the office, and was burning so inside the partitions that the entire house was so filled with smoke that with difficulty the guests were able to make their escape and some of them with only the clothes they had on. There were twelve guests and nine of the household and scarcely anything was saved except the desk of Mr. Rowell, the proprietor, from the office. Mr. Rowell was in Rutland on a business trip.

“The entire town fire apparatus was at work and help was summoned from Springfield, which came just in time with its efficient aid to save the adjoining buildings, and is deeply appreciated by all the townspeople. A high wind, which seemed to subside for a little, came up again with even more fury and continued throughout the day and night. At 8:30 a.m. the building was practically gone as the walls had fallen in, but the firemen were kept busy, as it was necessary to hold the fire from going further, and some were left on guard for a couple days. When it looked as if the near buildings could not be saved, W.E. Richardson, grocer, moved many things from his store and Mrs. Cleary and Mr. Fuller moved their goods from their homes to the street, but they were able to take them back again in the middle of the day.

“The hotel and furnishings were partially insured, but there was no insurance on the provisions, which included 20 barrels of flour and a large supply of small groceries and canned goods. There had also just been put into the cellar 25 cords of dry wood, which were lost. Jay Graves’ valuable fox hound, was in the basement and could not be rescued.

“The townspeople served hot coffee and doughnuts and at noon an oyster stew at Wiley Hall, for the firemen. Mr. and Mrs. Slafter at the drug store rendered invaluable service in furnishing a place of refuge and in ministering to the bodily needs.

“Mr. Rowell’s family have gone to the home of Mrs. Rowell’s people at the Depot, and the guests were taken care of in different homes in the village.

“The directors of the bank were called together Sunday afternoon and the banks will be found in the Red Cross rooms over Richardson’s store. The post office, for Sunday, took care of the Sunday mail in the drug store and later in the day moved to the room in the building next to Richardson’s store, where it will be until further orders.

“This is the third time the hotel has been destroyed by fire and it is not yet known whether it will be rebuilt.”

  This week’s old saying. “We don’t know where we’re going but we’re on our way and making good time.”

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