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Charles A. Spaulding
History of Hartford
153 pg transcript
History of Hartford and Lawrence
Eli Fayette Ruggles
Recollections of A Busy Life
Who are they?
Aerial view of Hartford from Microsoft Virtual Earth to
show location of building
that burned. The first three 4:00 a.m. photos were
submitted by Karl Bayer, TriCity Record. The next four photos, #259,
263, 266, 268, were submitted by Bruce Little, who states that he "took around 4 or 5 in the morning
after my dog woke me up". Other
photos during fire were taken
by Randy, from assisting Covert Fire Department, and submitted by John Dudley.
After fire photos 10:00 a.m. were by Emma Thornburg Sefcik.
Click here for slide show
Updates are shown below and will be
added as they become available. Comments from viewers are noted
2-15-2008 - Fire strikes another historic building in
At this point, the origin of the fire remains
under investigation. This story will be updated with new photos and facts
as the investigation continues.
This is the 4th major fire to have destroyed or severely damaged historic
buildings since 2004 in Hartford. On
April 9, 2004, the 100+
year old Hartford House Hotel burned,
demolished shortly thereafter, and an empty lot remains. Within a few
days, another fire occurred at Mann Metal,
which was originally known as the Thomas Farm in earlier years.
Lightening was determined as the origin of the Mann Metal fire. Severely
damaged portions of the building have been replaced.
Another major fire hit Mann Metal in 2005, which resulted in the total
demolition of Mann Metal from that site. The business was relocated
to the old Fruit Exchange building, southwest of town across the railroad
tracks from the race track.
House fire in Hartford
HARTFORD - Authorities in Van
Buren County received a call early Friday morning that a home was on
fire in downtown Hartford. Six fire departments were dispatched to
closes Red Arrow Highway
The home, which is at 35 W. Main, is an older building and was the
home of four adults and two small children. Everyone made it out,
and no one was injured.
The road in front of the building was closed as firefighters put out
the fire, so traffic on Red Arrow had to be routed around the area.
At 7:00 a.m. emergency crews were wrapping up and putting out the
last hot spots.
The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.
South Haven Bureau
by Andrew Lersten
Blaze destroys downtown building
Cause of fire remains under investigation
HARTFORD — Several area
fire departments were called in Friday morning to help Hartford
firefighters extinguish a large fire that destroyed a two-story
downtown building with a business in it.
Local firefighters were called to 35 1 ⁄ 2 W. Main St. at 3:26 a.m.,
and additional departments were summoned to help, Hartford Fire
Chief Ed Riley said.
State police Fire Marshal Scott LeRoi is investigating
the cause, and no determination had been made as of late Friday
afternoon, Riley said. The fire appeared to have started in the
ceiling of the brick building, which was mostly vacant, Riley said.
Corner Fun and Games, a video and computer games arcade
operated by City Commissioner Mark Scholten, occupied part of the
The second story, which at one time had apartments, was
condemned and therefore was not in use, the fire chief said. The
building is owned by Rudy Serratos.
However, the fire did affect a family renting an
apartment just east of the building destroyed by the fire, Riley
said. The fire destroyed the stairway used to gain access to the
For now, the family cannot stay in the apartment until that access
is restored, he said.
Assisting Hartford firefighters were the Bangor, Keeler, Lawrence,
Coloma, South Haven, Paw Paw, Decatur and Watervliet fire
departments, Riley said.
several departments fight a blaze in downtown Hartford around 5:30
a.m. Friday. The building was vacant except for a business on the
John Madill - Herald-Palladium
by Angela Stair
Hartford fire ruled as arson
10 fire departments fight to save landmark
Fire struck again in
downtown Hartford on Friday, February 15. The building,
located at 35 1/2 West Main Street, was totally gutted by a
four-alarm fire that struck at 3:26 a.m. Five people
located in the apartments to the east were safely evacuated.
Hartford Fire Chief Ed
Riley said that Michigan State Police Fire Marshal Scott LeRoi has
investigated the fire and has found it to be arson. The case
is now in the hands of the police, he said.
The value of the building
has not been determined at this time.
The two-story building
has been home to many businesses over the years. Residents of
Hartford remember with fondness the Green Lantern Café that had been
there during the 1940s and '50s. Presently, Corner Fun and
Games, a computer and video game arcade, was housed in part of the
The Apartments on the
second floor of the building had been condemned so one was in them
at the time. However, the apartments to the east of the
building shared a common stairwell. The five residents from
those apartments were displaced and are being housed in Paw Paw by
the American Red Cross.
Chief Riley said the
apartments to the east had smoke and water damage but were not
destroyed. Unfortunately, the residents cannot return to their
apartments because of the stairwell damage. He said this is
also one of the factors that must be taken into consideration in
determining dollar loss. According to Chief Riley, the owner
of the building, Rudy Serratos of Hartford, did not have insurance.
The fire that began at
3:26 a.m. burned so intently that it gutted the building even though
10 fire departments had been called for assistance. They were
Lawrence, Paw Paw, Keeler, Sister Lakes, Watervliet, Coloma, Covert,
South Haven, Bangor, and Hartford Fire Departments.
Chief Riley said that,
thankfully, there were no injuries to report.
Fire, fate of
gutted building; topics of Hartford Commission meeting
by Mary Brost Reck
Hartford City Commission
met for a workshop meeting Monday, February 18, just a few buildings
east of the recent downtown fire. Much discussion - official
and non-official - surrounded the details relating to the fire.
The vacant building,
which was uninsured, had been condemned. Smoke and water also
damaged the adjacent building, including property owned by
Commissioner Mark Scholten.
Following examination of
the burned site by the Building Inspector, the building has been
determined to be in a precarious condition. The road next to
the building has been blocked off temporarily, for safety
I don't think that building can sustain
noted City Manager Yemi Akinwale.
If the owner doesn't have a plan of action, we may have one for him.
The property owner is responsible for the
cleanup or removal of the building, said Akinwale. The owner has been
notified that he has five days to submit a plan of action indicating
whether he plans to rebuild or tear down the building, according to
Akinwale. If he intends to rebuild, he must indicate he has
the financial ability to adequately ensure the safety of the
It is presently a safety hazard,
noted Mayor Ted Johnson.
We have to make sure the area is safe.
Arson investigation is opened
Since there were no
working utilities in the building, arson is a consideration.
Chief of Police Ramon Beltran, in his report to the Commission,
indicated that his department has opened an investigation into the
case. Following the Fire Marshal's opinion, Hartford Police
Department is now in charge of the investigation.
Aikenwale commended all
those who assisted in containing the blaze. He read a letter
from Doug Harington, Assistant Fire Chief of Lawrence Township
Emergency Services, complimenting Hartford Superintendent of Public
Works Danny Staunton and the rest of the staff for the fine job
assisting emergency personnel in attaining water and access to the
Though the apartments
above the burnt building had been vacant, other downtown businesses
maintain occupied apartments upstairs.
examples of other apartments downtown that have been recently
renovated and currently provide safe, quality housing. He also
noted that state programs encourage such downtown apartments as a
way to revitalize and sustain downtown districts.
Note: Karl Bayer
contributed the first 3 photos in the fire slide show.
South Haven Bureau
by Andrew Lersten
Man charged with arson
HARTFORD — A Hartford man allegedly
burned a downtown building last month because of a grudge against a
tenant in an upstairs apartment next door.
Christopher Lee Burrows, 31, was arraigned Wednesday on
a charge of arson for the Feb. 15 fire on West Main Street, Van
Buren Seventh District Court officials said.
“(Burrows) and a man living in an
apartment of the adjoining building had had several disputes over
the previous couple of months, which led to the fire being started,” Hartford Police Chief Ramon Beltran said.
The two-story building at 35 1 ⁄ 2 W. Main St. was
destroyed by the fire, and it affected the adjoining apartment
because it destroyed a stairway used for access to it, Hartford Fire
Chief Ed Riley said earlier. The fire displaced the family.
The building that burned was mostly vacant, but did
contain Corner Fun and Games video and computer game arcade, owned
by City Commissioner Mark Scholten.
Burrows confessed to the crime, the police chief said.
Burrows is locked up in the Van Buren County jail in Paw Paw in lieu
of paying a $40,000 bond, jail officials said.
A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for March 31,
court officials said.
can remember that the Green Lantern was changed to the Southern Inn in
the late seventies. I worked the midnight shift there and they were open
all the time. The mangers were Judy Austin and Marvin. I learned how to
knit when I worked there. My boss, Judy, taught me on the not-so-busy
days. A guy by the name of Morie, I don't remember his last name, was
the owner of the café before the Austins took over. I worked what I call
the "bar nights". When the bars closed for the night, we would be
swamped with people who were hungry. At the time, I worked with a girl
by the name of Barb Morsaw. That was the good ole days. Before I started
working there, my family and I would meet there for coffee on the
weekend. Former resident Nancy Urick, now living in Illinois but getting
ready to move back to Michigan. I miss my family and going out for
coffee with my sisters.
I went to HHS and quit in ninth grade in 1968. I went back to Adult
Ed and got my GED in 1983, took a collage course, and received my master
degree in art in 1991 through a home study course because of an auto
accident that broke my back. After having back surgery, I was laid up
for 3 months and I decided to go for it.
I remember when I was 15 there was a donut shop a few buildings down
from the Southern Inn.
I can remember when I would get off work, there would be police
officers walking their beat on the streets of Hartford - that was the
times you felt safe.
I remember back in the late 70's the corner building that caught fire
used to be a restaurant and the CBers in the community would have coffee
breaks at the restaurant and down a couple doors was a pool hall.
Note: The pool hall was located in the red building just
east of the restaurant. I believe that is where the family resides
that was mentioned in Andrew Lersten's article above. I think that
building also once housed Art Smith's Paint Store.
I always appreciate everything you
send from Hartford. I'm following the reports of Shaun and Julie Sweet
and praying with all of you for that family. I'm interested in the new
obituaries section and have already read it all. Also, I'm most
interested in the reports about the fire in the old Green Lantern
Restaurant building. That was my uncle Roy Knapp's restaurant when I
was a child. I'm going to send here some of my memories of it from the
40s and 50s.
I remember that when one entered the
restaurant, eating tables were to the right and rear, and a long soda
fountain was to the left. I rarely got things at the Green Lantern
soda fountain. (I think mostly only adults did.) I preferred to buy
"Blue Moon" ice cream at the Bookstore (over east, mid block. Now
gone.) When I got to be a teen, I preferred to hang out at Clark's
Drug Store and buy my sodas there--or usually cherry Cokes or a
concoction we called a Cherry Green River.
Along the back (north wall) of the
eating room at the Green Lantern were booths. In the NW corner was
the door to the cooking area in the back. Just in front of that door,
on the west wall, was a Las Vegas type slot machine that took
quarters. My uncle gave me quarters to play the machine. (I never won
anything.) Old timers used to sit in the booths and eat and play
cards when it wasn't rush hour meal times. I used to play Tunk Rummy
there with my uncle when business was light.
In the back room cooking area, the
cooking ranges were immediately to your right along the dividing
wall. Beyond them, and a bit north, were the dishwashing tubs. A few
steps north of the cooking ranges was the big island on which food was
prepared. Along the west wall was that door that opened onto Maple
Street with no steps down. It was never used for entering or exiting,
but Uncle Roy (the cook as well as manager) would stand at it to cool
off on hot summer days. On the north wall was the rear door to the
alley. In the northeast corner was a bathroom stall.
One time when I was coming home from
school, the town policeman, Volney Austin, was doing crossing guard
duty at Main and East Streets. Another kid dared me to grab his billy
club and run with it. Because Volney was a distant cousin, I guess I
thought I could get away with that. I adroitly snatched it and ran,
with Volney in hot pursuit. I ran all the way to the Green Lantern,
ran in the front door and back to the bathroom to hide. It did me no
good. Uncle Roy turned me in, and Cousin Volney handcuffed me to the
bathroom stall where I sat for a good long time pondering my crime
before he turned me loose. (A policeman couldn't do such a thing to a
kid today, but it worked just fine back then.)
Donna Knapp Broadhurst (HHS class of
Webmaster note: Every kid in town
through the front door of
The Bookstore, eyeballed the candy counter, went out the back door
and on to school. After school, it was in the back door, candy
counter and maybe the soda fountain counter where Don Boniface
(HHS 1952) prepared a quick Coke float or 5¢
ice cream cone,
and out the front door to the rest of the day. The Bookstore was where the new
City Hall is now located, with Clark's Drug Store (last known
as Rose Drug Store, which was destroyed by the
big fire of 1968) located almost
directly across on the south side of Main Street - now home of the Move Gallery.
I am so sorry to hear of this particular building burning down. It was the home of the "Green Lantern" cafe when I was growing up in
Hartford. We went there for penny candy and the best tutti fruiti ice
cream in the whole world. I can't remember the name of the
people who owned the cafe but they made all of their ice cream and were
super nice to kids.
Dorothy Dyer Martelle (HHS 1947)
It's what I thought. My mom worked in the Green Lantern Restaurant when
my dad was serving in Korea. We were kids and with my Mom, staying with
his parents Vic and Mary Rhinehart. It’s across the street from where
or maybe still is, the old tavern. I still remember the old bookstore
just down from it way back when. We have to protect the elderly
including old trees and old buildings.
(Former resident now residing in Alabama. Jim's family moved from
Hartford in his elementary years and he would have graduated with HHS
class of 1965.)