The Colonial Fire 30 Years Later | Sadness Up In Big Flames

The Colonial Fire The End Of An Era of Put-in-Bay Hotels

This Memorial Day weekend in 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of the Colonial Fire. The colonial building fire Put-in-Bay involved a landmark building and was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century. It was located at the corner of Delaware and Catawba Avenues, where the Beer Barrel Saloon and Tippers are now located.

The 82-year-old structure stood out with its large dome at the northwest corner of the building. For years it was the place where many fun memories were made on Put-in-Bay. Over its many years, it had been a dance pavilion, Skating Rink, wine cellar bowling area, dance pavilion, and more. This would not have been the first structure to burn to the ground at the location. Other Put-in-Bay Hotels had been the victim of fires that led to their early demise. In fact, many hotels in Put-in-Bay Hotel History have burned to the ground.

Colonial Fire Memorial Day Weekend 1988

On the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend 1988, the day it burned to the ground, it housed the island grocery store and the Beer Barrel Saloon and, over the years, had a roller skating rink, a bowling ally, and was where hundreds of island adults and kids spent many an evening having fun. It was also where Pat Dailey entertained. A propane-fueled grill at the front of the building was believed to have been the cause of the massive Colonial Fire. A supply line malfunctioned, spewing liquid fire up the front of the old wooden structure.

The massive structure was smoldering ruins in just over 45 minutes. The raging Colonial fire was no match for the Put-in-Bay Volunteer Fire Department as they fought valiantly to protect other nearby businesses from being consumed in the fire. Shocked Put-in-Bay Residents couldn’t believe this beloved island landmark was gone. People reported seeing the flames and smoke from nearby mainland cities such as Port Clinton and Sandusky and as far away as Detriot.

The Years After The Colonial Fire

Tip Niese, the owner, vowed to rebuild, and a new Beer Barrel Saloon and Tipper’s Restaurant were built. The Beer Barrel Saloon to this day, holds the record as the longest bar in the world. The burning of the old Colonial marked the beginning of a new era at Put-in-Bay. The first Jet Express and the first of the new larger Put-in-Bay Ferry boats meant more people, both daytrippers and those who could stay late into the evening. The Reconstructed building still stands today and is known as the Beer Barrel Saloon.

This newly constructed building, along with other expansions on the island, including new put in bay hotels, resulted in more entertainment at the various Put-in-Bay Bars and, eventually, the influx of modern Put-in-Bay Hotels & Resorts we see today. Each Memorial Day weekend, islanders pause to reflect on the anniversary of the Colonial Fire. Many of the young men and women who experienced the fire still have vivid memories of the event.

Today Put-in-Bay is much larger and attracts more visitors than ever before. With over 800,000 visitors annually, the island has become a mainstay in Ohio Tourism. With its proximity to Cedar Point and the addition of an interisland ferry service between nearby Kells Island and Middle Bass Island, more and more people are learning about this hidden vacation gem!

There are still many islanders who remember the Colonial Fire, have stories to tell about fun times there, or who worked there. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll hear some fun and exciting things about the Colonial as the anniversary of its demise is marked. You will almost always find a local with his or her special connection to the history of the Colonial Fire.