One of the oldest buildings in Chester is gone. Fire flattened the old Inn and Tavern Tuesday night. Smoke continued to rise from the ashes of the Route 103 structure Wednesday afternoon. A pile of debris is all that remains after fire ripped through the old inn, which was built more than 200 years ago.
"I heard my boyfriend and his family saying, 'Oh my God, there is smoke.' And I ran downstairs, we all went downstairs and outside. And this place was completely engulfed," said Michele Wiman, who witnessed the fire.
Within minutes of the first call around 10 p.m. Tuesday, flames consumed the entire structure. Most recently the building was used for residential housing, but it had been vacant for awhile. And now there are only memories of the structure that was once a popular stop for stagecoach travelers.
Ron Patch is president of Chester's Historical society.
"Originally started as an inn and tavern," said Ron Patch of the Chester Historical Society. "In the addition, there was a dance floor upstairs that had some sort of suspension, so when they danced on it the floor would actually rise up and down."
And that is not the only piece of unusual architecture. There was an exterior door on the second floor.
"As the stages came in, the stagecoach, the most expensive seats were inside on the coach. Cheap passengers, cheap rates were up on top of the stage. So when it pulled up, you would climb off the top of the stage and go in that door," Patch explained.
Stories that the town will always have, but the building is gone forever.
"It certainly is sad," Patch said. "I probably haven't the words yet to describe how I really feel."
"I can't believe it happened," Wiman said.
State police fire investigators were on scene to determine the cause. However, at this time, according to Chester Police, the fire is not considered suspicious. Police say the owners were in the process of trying to sell and that there was electricity hooked up to part of the building.
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