This past 2018 Memorial Day weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the Colonial Fire.

This landmark building built at the beginning of the 20th century was located at the corner of Delaware and Catawba Avenues where the Beer Barrel Saloon and Tippers is now located. The 82-year-old structure stood out with its large dome at the northwest corner of the building. For years it was the place where many fun memories were made on Put-in-Bay. Over the years it had been a bowling area, dance pavilion, skating rink, wine cellar and more.

When it burned on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend 1988, it housed the island grocery store and the Beer Barrel Saloon where Pat Dailey entertained. The fire began at a propane-fueled grill at the front of the building. A supply line malfunctioned spewing liquid fire up the front of the old wooden structure. Within 45 minutes, the massive structure was smoldering ruins. The Put-in-Bay Volunteer Fire Department was helpless to slow the raging Colonial fire and fought valiantly to protect other nearby businesses from also being consumed in the fire. Shocked islanders couldn’t believe this beloved island landmark was gone.

Owner Tip Niese vowed to rebuild, and a new Beer Barrel Saloon and Tipper’s Restaurant were built. The burning of the old Colonial marked the beginning of a new era at Put-in-Bay. The first Jet Express and the first of the new larger Miller ferries meant more people, both day
trippers and those who could stay late into the evening. This resulted in more entertainment at the various island watering holes and eventually the influx of Put-in-Bay Hotels & Resorts we see today.

There are still many islanders who remember the Colonial Fire, have stories to tell about fun times there, or who worked there. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll hear some fun and interesting things about the Colonial as the anniversary of its demise is marked.