Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bellefonte's Bush House Hotel is Gone

The Bush House in Bellefonte just burned to the ground. They aren't sure yet what caused it, but have deemed the building a total loss. No one appears to have been hurt.

The place was an historic building, right in the middle of downtown Bellefonte. When it was built in 1868, it was the second largest hotel in Pennsylvania. People like Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison stayed there. In the 1880's, when the owners decided to fit the place up with electricity and lights, Edison was the one who did the designing. In recent years it was not only a hotel and restaurant, but served as an office building for some of the area's smaller businesses.

I was only in the place once. Last year, a friend of mine decided he wanted to have his birthday dinner in Schnitzel's, the German restaurant in the bottom level. What I saw of the hotel was mainly the lobby, and it was gorgeous -- high ceilings, old Victorian furniture, dark wood. I'm sorry now that I didn't stop to look more closely, and that I didn't have a camera with me.

Another friend has e-mailed me some second- or third-hand pictures of the firefighting. I don't know the woman who took the photos, and I don't feel comfortable posting them without her permission. Let me see if I can sum it up: Twenty fire companies responded, but they just couldn't put the thing out in time. The fire first made itself known about 7 in the morning, and the building was already past help by 9 AM. I can tell by what I've been sent how the place will look the next time I ride past it -- like a rotten, broken tooth.

They're going to do a fire reconstruction tomorrow, to see if they can figure out how this happened. Right now, they're still checking to see that no one got caught in it.


Gina Marie said...

Hi there! Just dropped in. I was there that morning, watching it burn from a higher place. I have dozens of pictures - if you are interested, I could send you some. It's sad to walk by there now, with all the rumble, but they are finally beginning to clean it up. My boyfriend and I are hoping they will turn that land into an extension of the park, but we'll see.

take care!

--V said...

Hi Gina Marie,
Do you have a link to the photos, something like that? I've taken a couple of the mess the site is now, but haven't put them on Flick'r yet.

A park would be nice. I was kind of hoping they'd try to rebuild the hotel somehow. Only this time with a sprinkler system! Geez. I understand about wanting to preserve the look of an historic site, but c'mon. How preserved is it now? I wonder how many other buildings in Bellefonte have no sprinklers.

Gina Marie said...

Hey V,

I do have pictures, but they are not on the web (yet). I am trying to hold out on buying a pro account to flickr until I absolutely need to. Right now I feel like not enough people know about my pics to make it worth it. I have a few I can send via email though, will that work?

And I remeber when that whole mess happened, there were articles in the paper about all the buildings without sprinkler systems. I think my friend has an apartment in one downtown. It's a shame. Two buildings in one year.