This past Memorial Day weekend in 2018 marked the 30th anniversary of the Colonial Fire. The landmark building 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, and 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.
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 where Pat Dailey entertained. A propane-fueled grill at the front of the building was believed to have been the cause of the massive 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.
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. This 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 Colonial Fire.
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 interesting things about the Colonial as the anniversary of its demise is marked.