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.