1889 building engulfed on night before new bar and grill to open; arson investigation started
By Garth Meyer
In preparation for Tuesday’s grand opening, the new Brick Wall Bar and Grill in Palouse was full of customers for a “soft start” Monday night.
Hours later, in the dark of the early morning, a Palouse resident driving home from a night shift saw smoke coming from the roof.
It was not yet 4 a.m. Within an hour, flames roared into the sky as firefighters from four departments battled what turned into an inferno.
By daylight the 1889 building was gone.
By Tuesday afternoon, an investigation began to determine if arson was the cause.
Palouse Police Chief Jerry Neumann cited a fresh paint spill with what was described as scribbling in it found in the parking lot between the destroyed building and Heritage Park. A back door near where the smoke was first seen was unlocked, and a witness reported seeing a vehicle near the scene at 1:30 a.m.
The driver of the car might have been using the restrooms at the park, which are open 24 hours a day but Neumann said it’s a concern.
This is the eighth bar or tavern destroyed by fire in the past 10 months in a 125-mile area in Northern Idaho, Eastern Washington and Montana.
Representatives from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were due to visit the scene in Palouse Wednesday to aid in the investigation.
Fighting the fire
Palouse Fire Chief Mike Bagott believes the fire burned for some time before the 3:50 a.m. report came, after which two sirens quickly sounded over Palouse.
Volunteer fireman Mark Van Horn heard his radio go off at his Main Street residence which is three storefronts down from the smoke.
He got up and ran over to radio in his assessment.
Other Palouse firefighters soon arrived along with Police Chief Neumann, who saw no smoke coming out of the bottom front of the building.
“Initially the restaurant was clear. A lot of it was concentrated in the back,” he said Tuesday night. “There was no construction done in the back of the building. From my understanding there was no electrical back there.”
While Bagott sent a crew into adjacent buildings to evacuate the few residents nearby, another group of firefighters entered the burning location and made their way to the second floor before retreating from heavy smoke.
Meanwhile, backup was on its way, coming from the City of Pullman, City of Colfax and Pullman Fire District No. 12.
As the fire gained on the building, it eventually took it over as an estimated 30 firefighters fought it through the night.
“It was about two hours before we really felt like the fire was solidly contained to the building of origin,” said Bagott. “There was a short bit of time we thought we might lose the whole block.”
While fire departments fought the blaze, the City of Pullman and Colfax Fire departments arrived with tower ladders.
Photo sequences of a street clock across from the tavern building indicated it collapsed at about 5:20 a.m.
“From the ground it looked like the fire had spread across the rooftops,” Chief Bagott said. “This building had a somewhat peculiar construction (which kept the fire contained). Otherwise, a fire can spread from one roof joist to another roof joist to another.”
As the criminal investigation proceeds, the cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
“The presumption at this point is electrical,” Bagott said Tuesday morning. “But it’s way too early to tell.”
Since buying the building last September, Adam Barron of Palouse had restored and remodeled the former Palouse Tavern to open as the Brick Wall Bar and Grill. In addition, he had been refurbishing apartments on the second floor.
The adjacent Main Street buildings — spared in the fire — housed an art studio, car shop, apartments and Hemphill Heating and Electric which began business on the block last fall.
“It’s our volunteers that saved the day for Palouse today,” said Mayor Michael Echanove. “The important thing was that no one was hurt, and I credit the fire department and the E.M.T.s for getting people out of buildings… It was an inferno on the top of that roof.”
As news spread through the night and firefighters cut down the flames, Palouse residents appeared to offer help. A food and refreshments command station started at the Palouse Community Center about 6:30 a.m. with people later making sandwiches and others pushing carts up the street with treats on them.
Many volunteers brought down bottled water, cookies, chips, muffins and more.
“You look at the people on the street, people came out of the woodwork,” said Bagott, who ate dinner at the Brick Wall’s soft opening hours before the fire. “It was just such a positive last night, and to be in smoke and shambles 12 hours later.”
One of the servers Monday night was Daquarii Rock of Pullman, a grant writer who started her second job that morning with training from Olivia Barron, Adam’s wife.
It was Rock’s first time employed as a waitress.
After finishing her opening shift Monday night, she realized driving home that she had left her tips in a pocket of the apron she wore.
“It was completely beautiful. Clean, clean, clean,” she said of the bar and restaurant. “Nice dark wood floors, new sinks, cabinets and toilets in the bathrooms, flat-screen TVs and a pool table, neon lights. The shiny, sparkly corrugated metal on the walls reflected light. The trim was brand new on every doorway, every window, baseboard, with fresh paint.”
The walls were done in chalkboard paint, on which children had drawn Monday night.
“It had never even been erased yet,” Rock said.
The Brick Wall Bar and Grill had retained, and been named for, the original inside brick wall with writing on it from decades before when it was the Palouse Tavern, and before that the Wooden Nickel and Palouse Caboose.
The Barrons were set to sell newly exposed brick space (for writing on) as a fundraiser to restore the exterior of the building.
“Now the brick wall is on the exterior,” Rock said.
Built a year after the entire row of Palouse’s Main Street burnt down – on both sides of the street – the 1889 building’s brick construction was mandated by city ordinance after the previous fire.
“My granddad owned it,” said Dave Hill, Sr., 76, sitting on a bench in front of the Palouse library watching Tuesday morning as firefighters kept hoses aimed at the rubble. “Another part of Palouse history is gone. I feel mostly sorry for the guy that owns it now.”
Hill’s grandfather was named Clive Hill, and Dave later worked in the building as a rural mail carrier for the Post Office, which operated out of the back end of it until 1986.
“That place would’ve been jammed tonight,” said Gary Kendall, another observer on the street Tuesday morning, talking about the Brick Wall’s grand opening. “Everyone was really looking forward to it.”
Kendall heard the news of the fire from his daughter in Indiana. With Central Standard Time time being two hours ahead, she saw it on Facebook.
Overall, the waitress Rock suggested that the loss extends far beyond Palouse.
“Pullman needed a place to drive for a burger and a beer,” she said. “Palouse needs a burger joint. A place to take your kids for french fries.”
Before the old building ever held a tavern, it had housed Boone Mercantile, a general merchandise and grocery owned by J.M. Batten and a five-and-dime run by (Clive) Hill.
The upstairs had lodge meeting rooms, a doctor, dentist, law offices and later apartments.
The Palouse Tavern, the bottom floor’s previous tenant, closed last Dec. 21 after owners Bob and Tina Brookshier received a notice to vacate from Barron, who had recently purchased the building. The Brookshiers had operated the tavern for nine years.
In the end, Mayor Echanove also saluted the outlying fire departments which came to the town’s aid.
“I can’t thank them enough, for putting their lives on the line in helping folks,” Echanove said. “It makes your heart stop (to think) that the whole place was packed with people hours earlier.”
On the agenda for the Palouse City Council meeting Tuesday night was a permit request for a partial use of the south end of Beach Street – for an enclosed beer garden for the Brick Wall Bar and Grill.
By Sally Ousley
Port of Whitman County commissioners April 3 noted continuing changes at Boyer Park and Marina.
A port application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for expansion of the RV portion of the park with another 12 to 14 spaces was discussed. Port Director Joe Poire said increased sizes of RVs over the past few years require larger rental spaces for the RVs.
The additional spaces will be located along the north side of the day use area. The port will make the addition pending approval from the corps.
The next project will be addition of three rental cabins on the upstream end of the park. That project is expected to be finished next fall.
Poire also reported that all the plumbing work in the marina building has been finished. Work involved remodeling of motel units and the restaurant area.
Poire also told commissioners nine trees will be removed because of disease problems and age of some of the trees. The port has been working with an arborist who recommended the trees be removed.
Twenty Morton Circle trees will replace the old trees. This variety of tree is expected to be hardier and last longer than the cottonwood trees at the park.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will make their annual inspection tour of the park and marina on May 16.
The port commissioners noted that their inspection of the park and marina will be May 1.
The Palouse Knowledge Corridor held its spring Business Showcase in Pullman March 31.
Held at BellTower Events Venue in Pullman, representatives from seven businesses presented their efforts to gathered members of the public and potential investors.
Each presenter showcased their business in a 15-minute format. Afterward, a social hour was held.
“It was a great success,” said Nathan Weller, Pullman city councilman and member of the Palouse Knowledge Corridor. “We were impressed.”
Presentations were made on behalf of Phytelligence, the Omache Farm, SandyClocks, Unifine Flour, NuSpirits, Vertical Garden Sustainability Center and Gentle Earth Acupuncture.
Phytelligence is a plant/agriculture spinoff from WSU to help the agriculture industry obtain ready-to-plant and guaranteed true to type plant material.
The Omache Farm representatives told of a family farm striving to follow organic principles and methods to market their products in the local economy, while NuSpirits gave a presentation on their nutrient-enriched alcohol.
SandyClocks provides task-driven labor scheduling and monitoring solutions with a patent-pending, cloud-based labor monitoring and labor data analysis. Unifine whole grain flour comes from a milling system redesigned at WSU.
Finally, the Vertical Garden Sustainability Center is a social entrepreneurship investing in local food security, growing organic vegetables, herbs and fish in a closed biological nutrient cycle.
The Palouse Knowledge Corridor is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to match innovation with opportunity, promote assets of the Palouse and foster collaborative efforts with universities, private sector, economic development agencies and governments.
“We do this to highlight local entreprenuerial heroes,” Weller said.
The Corridor plans to hold another business showcase in the fall.
Colfax softball team hammers Gorillas twice
Junior Erica Eng pitches for both wins on road
Colfax softball players Saturday finally opened their season with a road trip to Davenport where they posted two strong wins over the Gorillas. They dropped the Gorillas 10-1 in the first game of the NE opener and 13-3 in the second game.
The Saturday wins at Davenport came after the league start was postponed by a rainout the previous week. The Bulldogs were also swamped out of their would-be season opener against A-division Freeman on the Scotties’ turf.
Coach Terry Eng credited his crew Saturday with mixing a solid hitting attack with just three errors, all in the second game.
“We also had a few mental mistakes, and that’s something we’re going to work on,” Eng noted.
Junior pitcher Erica Eng took both wins over the Gorillas. Eng started the day by fanning the hosts in order in the first inning. Overall, she allowed three hits, stuck out 12 and walked just four.
Colfax had nine hits in the opener with Scoops Hahn and Kori Goodwin each pairing singles and Amara Huber tagging a single and a double. Other hitters were Sarah Appel, triple; Eng, single, and Casey Cloaninger, double.
Colfax posted a 7-0 lead after three innings with a four-run charge in the second inning hitting the pace. Appel tagged her triple for two RBIs in the frame and finished the day with five RBIs.
In the 13-3 win in the second game, Eng allowed one hit, struck out five and walked three. Lone hit for the Gorillas came in the fourth inning.
Colfax had eight hits with Hahn rapping three singles to finish up a five-hit day. Hahn’s start Saturday at Davenport came after she missed all last season recovering from an ACL injury.
Appel singled and doubled in the second game to finished out a five RBI day. Goodwin singled and tripled and Cloaninger tripled.
The Bulldogs are slated to play a pair at Asotin today and then host Reardan in a league double next Tuesday when both Reardan teams will be in town.
Javelin-16. Brown 119-6, (153-3).
Long jump-6. Fulfs 18-3, 19. Douglas Wall 15-10 (19-9).
High jump-12. Tim Cornelius 5-0 (6-2).
Pole vault: 1. Skylar Simonson 11-0, 8. Sam Daily 9-6, 14.Reece Sanders 7-0.
Triple Jump-5.Fulfs 37-5.0( 41-11.)
100-Hurdles-4. Bailey Mackleit 17.57 ,16. Holly Rimbey 21.85, (16.94).
300 hurdles-2.Mackleit 51.7, (50.25).
4 x 100 relay-3. Amelie Bruya, Mackleit, Sheer, S.Cai 51.47, (51.13).
4 x 200 relay-3.Bruya, Mackleit, Sheer, Cai 1:49.39, (1:47.92).
Shot put-1.Nicole Sheer 34-2.5
Discus- 1 Taylor Cai 122-6, 5.Sheer 95-9
High jump-1.Scout Cai 5-2.
Javelin-4. Taylor Cai 91-3, 14. Cacey Hall 68-11, (128-5).
Pole vault: 2. Scout Cai 8-6, 9.Hall 6 -6 (9-7).
It’s hard to tell if Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder has publicly embraced the desperate plight of Native Americans because he’s genuinely moved, or whether it’s a cynical crisis-management stunt by a man whose franchise is under siege because its name is a slur, the hateful R-word. If it is the latter, then Snyder might want to find new PR people.
He and/or they have announced that economic assistance will be funneled through their Original American Foundation. That’s right: OAF. Critics are having a field day with that, suggesting that Snyder’s open letter about providing coats, 3,000 so far, and athletic shoes and other largesse to reservations after he and his staff had visited several of them was nothing more than an oafishly cynical effort to take the heat off and try to slow momentum of a campaign to get rid of the team’s hateful brand. Snyder says he will never do that, because it represents a grand history of professional football in D.C.
Never mind that the tradition includes an owner, George Marshall, who was a rabid racist, who only allowed black players on his roster after heavy financial pressure. And, of course, never mind that the desperate straits Native Americans struggle with today have grown out of the brutal treatment afforded previous generations. The R-word is a symbol of that oppression, an inflammatory slur.
You’ve heard this all before. The debate has been laid out many times. President Barack Obama has weighed in carefully in favor of a new name. Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has hinted that maybe the time has come. But perhaps those who live outside the Beltway, those who cheer for other teams, are wondering why they should even care about this issue, particularly when polls show that a majority of the fans don’t want a change.
First of all, let’s face it: Otherwise sensitive and socially conscious people turn into fanatics when it comes to their spectator sports. They’re crazed. I know, because I’m one of them. Still, we should be aware that a pejorative name for one of the teams demeans the entire league.
Snyder is well aware that a growing number of fair-minded fans are realizing that they are, in fact, deeply offended, now that the issue has been forced into their minds, and are beginning to question whether their cheers should include an out-and-out slur.
He’s clearly getting nervous. Why else would Snyder suddenly be moved to show his concern: “The more I heard, the more I’ve learned, and the more I saw, the more resolved I became about helping to address the challenges that plague the Native American community.”
Obviously, it’s great that he has suddenly discovered the wretched conditions that plague the reservations, and plans to address them (he didn’t say how much he’d contribute). But, until he realizes that the nickname that identifies his business is a fundamental part of the problem, this is just a token effort.
A lot of us have had fun suggesting alternative names for the Washington Slurs: the Politicians, the Lobbyists, the Special Interests, all using a pig as a mascot. But here’s another idea: Let’s call them the OAFS. The symbol? A decal of Dan Snyder.
(Bob Franken is a syndicated columist.)
(c) 2014 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Synd.