Fires, tornado challenge downtown businesses
|By DENNIS NARTKER
KENDALLVILLE Kendallvilles Main Street business district has seen its share of excitement and hard times.
On Sept. 9, 1886, fire broke out in the middle of the 100 block of South Main Street. Flames nearly 100 feet high destroyed much of the blocks wooden buildings. The Kelly House (now Kendallville Auto Parts) at 101 S. Main St. was one of the few brick buildings left standing after the fire burned itself out. The loss was in excess of $29,000.
Frank S. Weber, a former railway freight agent and Kendallville resident for 50 years, spoke to the Kendallville Rotary Club on Sept. 15, 1936, about Kendallville history.
The Sept. 16, 1936, News-Sun reported Weber told club members:
The business district was swept by a terrible fire, wiping out most of the east side of the street and a block on Mitchell Street east. Poor water facilities caused the loss.
He went on to describe another costly fire on the west side of Main Street that destroyed a number of wooden structures which were later replaced with brick buildings.
The fire was actually a blessing, writes Mrs. Henry Misselhorn in her book The History of Kendallville.
The fire was a blessing for it resulted in uniform brick buildings not only on the east side of Main Street but also on the south side of Mitchell Street.
The first City Hall, dedicated on July 4, 1907, was destroyed by fire in 1913, along with the citys sewer records and maps.
Frank Craven and Claude McPherson, two firefighters on duty in the City Hall fire station, were playing checkers or cards when the fire broke out.
According to a rumor at the time recounted in The History of Kendallville and Noble County, 1863-1963, Craven and McPherson were not aware of the fire until the legs of their table burned off. They managed to escape with a team of horses pulling the fire wagon and actually fought the fire.
disaster in downtowns history was the July 14,
1992, tornado that ripped through the city.
Feb. 19, 1989,
fire destroyed Robinsons Downtown Hardware.
|The City Hall was rebuilt in 1914 and
officially dedicated the next year.
On Feb. 19, 1989, fire gutted the second floor of Robinsons Downtown Hardware at 116 S. Main St., causing over $100,000 in damage. The adjoining buildings housing the J.C. Penney store at 112-114 S. Main St. and The Nobleman mens clothing store at 120 S. Main St. also had fire and smoke damage totaling over $36,000.
Firefighters from six area communities in addition to Kendallville fought the nighttime blaze.
The July 14, 1992, tornado that caused extensive to the Main Street business district was the most serious natural disaster to hit downtown Kendallville.
Over 17 businesses were damaged when the high winds blew off roofs and building facades, downed power lines and overturned vehicles.
The tornado also caused considerable damage in the citys east-central residential area, the Fairview shopping center, and the Hollybrook Heights and Arvada Hills subdivisions.
The storm caused more than $12 million in damage.
Fortunately no lives were lost.
City Council moved quickly to help downtown business and property owners by making available more than $435,000 for low-interest loans.
Through the efforts of downtown merchants, business owners and city officials, Main Street buildings were restored.
Kendallville received the Community of the Year award for 1994 from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce largely due to its remarkable recovery from the tornado.
The winter of 1978 will be remembered for the drifting snow and below-zero temperatures that closed schools, factories and businesses and access roads to Kendallville for nearly three days.
Snowdrifts over 10 feet high blocked areas in the downtown
business district as city crews worked to clear roads for
On Oct. 16, 1931, Kendallville recorded its only Main Street bank robbery.
Four men armed with a machine gun robbed the Citizens National Bank at the corner of Main and Mitchell streets.
According to a report in The News-Sun, a bank patron was slugged when his laughter failed to amuse one of the robbers.
The robbers fled west on Mitchell Street in a waiting car, and eventually traveled to Drake Road where they continued west toward Sacrider Lake.
Two of the robbers were eventually caught in Jonesville, Mich.