It was the early morning hours of October 22, 1966 when a devastating fire tore through the iconic Moore Hotel, leaving one person dead and the Indiana landmark in ruin.
At the time of the fire, there were forty guests registered at the hotel, but fortunately not all were in the building at the time of the fire. The blaze broke out around 2 a.m. in the vicinity of room 323 which was occupied by Ron Logan. Thankfully Logan escaped but was hospitalized for treatment of shock.
The Pennsylvania Railroad crew and a truck driver for Railway Express Agency, discovered the fire. The trucker, quickly stepped into action by going into the offices of the Indiana Evening Gazette to turn in the alarm.
Flames tore through the upper floors of the hotel and were out of control before the firemen were able to reach the scene. Indiana firemen were assisted by Blairsville, Homer City, Clymer, and Plumville, and thankfully they were able to contain the fire to the brick encasement of the building.
The only person that was not able to make it to safety was James Bollman, who was on the fourth floor. Those on the upper floors were rescued via ladder trucks from the windows. For those who are not familiar with the area, the Moore Hotel was located on Eighth and Philadelphia Streets, directly across Eighth Street from the Courthouse. The building not only served as a hotel, but also housed seven business establishments on the Eighth Street side.
Those businesses included; Valenti Shoe Repair, Swisher’s Sweeper Sales, Alvin Almes Realty, Ruth Knupp Beautry Salon, Lieb’s Appliances and Grundy’s Sports Shop, and a basement barbershop.
William Bagley, the night deskman on duty the night of the fire and he was first informed the fire by Wilson Lydick, one of the guests. Bagley went upstairs to check on the situation and upon seeing the fire immediately went back downstairs to phone emergency personnel but the police had already arrived. Between the night deskman and the police, they went through the hotel warning guests to evacuate the building.
The hotel was an iconic landmark in Indiana, dating back to the 19th century when it had containing 100 rooms. It was first purchased around 1920 by Joseph Stern; and his son Morris operated the hotel for many years. The hotel was at a prime location being across from the Pennsylvania Railroad passenger (located at the site of the present day courthouse). The site had been a hotel since around the end of the Civil War.
Early records show that Solomon and Martin Earhart, brothers who were originally from Saltsburg, were in the livery stable business in West Indiana prior to 1865, which is the year Martin left that business and started a hotel in West Indiana.
Apparently, Solomon started a hotel on the site of the Moore Hotel prior to 1876 because it was in that year that Martin purchased Solomon’s hotel, the Continental, and continued its operation.
Martin had added a rear wing to the four story structure and then renamed it the American House, becoming a familiar landmark to the public traveling in the area.
Martin passed away in 1913 and H.C. Moore acquired the hotel property, and subsequently renamed it the Moore Hotel. Mr. Moore added the brick shell to the building and a fifth floor.
About 1920, Joseph Stern, the father of the owner at the time of the fire, acquired the property and completed the renovation and the fifth floor.
As the years progressed, hotels were losing their original purpose and by the 1960s the hotel was being used for rooming house purposes rather than the typical hotel purpose. Many of the guests at the hotel at the time of the fire, were actually permanent residents, many acquiring the living quarters in the Moore Hotel following the Indiana Hotel fire, which occurred on February 7, 1962.
The Moore Hotel was the largest remaining hotel in Indiana, and had the structure not fallen victim to the tragic fire in 1966, it may have had a chance to regain some of its former elegance, especially when the new courthouse was built in the 1970s.