Downtown Colon burns!
In an article printed in 1967, Ralph Clement recalls a fire in downtown Colon. “In the late 1880’s, a traveling road show put on a performance in Godfrey’s hall. I was there and the show was in progress when suddenly a man appeared at the entrance and yelled “FIRE, FIRE” at the top of his voice. It was Fremont Clement, and with him was Vern Akey. They had discovered the blaze and rushed up to get the hall emptied. The actors yelled, “There is no fire, keep your seats.” However, the crowd started going down the stairs and within a few minutes all were out. Some went out on the stairs at the rear from the second floor. Harry Mellon walked right off the platform at the head of the stairs and broke his arm. The fire had started in the store adjoining the Godfrey Block. Colon had no firefighting apparatus of any kind. The fire burned fiercely. The plate glass window in the Akey drug store was cracked (it was the only plate glass front in town). A bucket brigade was formed at the millrace; it did no good whatever. All of the wooden buildings from the Godfrey block to where the E. Hill and Sons bank now stands were burned to the ground. The buildings were the C. Willkinson Drug and Crockery store on the first floor, with the Masonic lodge on the second floor. Sarah Atridge Millinery and fancy goods, a hardware store, one other store and then the Wellesly Tailor shop. This also housed the Post Office. The fire wiped out the north side of State Street. My father Charles Clement’s store, and one other store, both in the Godfrey block, remained. Plans to rebuild were made immediately, and the following spring the work started. All of the new buildings were to be of brick construction. Mr. C. Wilkinson built a two-story on his lot adjoining the Godfrey Block. He occupied the first floor with a drug and crockery store. Next, J. B. Peters built a store, which was occupied by a hardware. I think that Bower and Fisk was the first firm. My father’s store was next. He also had bought the adjoining store, erecting it about two or three years later. A few years later the Hills Opera house was built. Then came the Joe Cornell Jewelry store (which was only 10 feet wide) and after that, H. A. Bell Harness Shop, followed by the Charles McKinister residence, now rebuilt into a restaurant called the Midlakes café.” This restaurant stood on the present site of the parking lot on the northwest corner of State and Swan streets. Godfrey’s hall was the building on the northeast corner of State and Blackstone. The play Ralph Clement was attending was being held on the third floor of that building.