ELDRIDGE, Iowa -- A fire destroyed a historic pub and reception hall in Eldridge on Thursday morning despite the efforts of Eldridge firefighters and those of 10 neighboring cities.
Eldridge Fire Chief Tyler Schmidt said Del's Eatery & Pub, 102 W. LeClaire Road, is a total loss. The cause is under investigation.
Eldridge Fire was called to the 127-year-old building at 8:20 a.m., arriving to find heavy black smoke coming from the northwest corner of the one-story reception hall, he said. Ten minutes later, the entire reception hall was engulfed.
"The fire consumed it rather quickly," Chief Schmidt said.
Fire departments from Bettendorf, Davenport, LeClaire, Princeton, Long Grove, Donahue, Dixon, Maysville, McCausland and Walcott responded, some bringing ladder trucks and tanker trucks. At one point, three ladder trucks were in action. Each ladder held two firefighters and each firefighter was dousing flames with a hose. The water pressure from above was so strong, it crumbled the wood siding on the west wall of the reception hall piece-by-piece. At 11:30 a.m., firefighters on ladder trucks were fighting flames shooting through the roof of the restaurant/bar area, a two-story building, causing heavy black smoke to cloud the intersection. Chief Schmidt said the building had three layers of roofing, and fire between each layer.
On the ground, firefighters were using hand-held hoses to push water into second-story windows.
On the first floor, the black awnings declaring "Del's" remained intact above the windows while water poured from the top of the windows to the ground below.
Crowds of people gathered to watch, some taking pictures and video with cameras and phones. Many who watched said the flames were taking away a landmark where generations ate dinner, celebrated weddings and anniversaries.
Abbey Hardy, of Eldridge, said two walls in Del's were decorated with a North Scott Lancer mural. On top of the colors people would sign their names, from the very young to the very old.
She said she has eaten there often and said the building holds many memories. Ms. Hardy said when she heard about the fire on Thursday, it was like time stopped. "Standing there and hearing the glass in the windows break, it just breaks your heart," she said.
"Just to see it gone now makes you want to cry," Ms. Hardy said.
Her friend, Alisha Claeys, of Eldridge, held her wedding reception at Del's two years ago and she said she remembers her first dance with her husband in the reception hall. "To see it burn down to nothing is tragic," she said. "I grew up here. That building was here my whole life," Ms. Claeys said.
Sharon Cavallo, of Eldridge, said it likely was one of the first buildings built in Eldridge. Growing up, she said she heard rumors the upstairs was a brothel at one time and the basement used for bootlegging liquor.
Her uncle supported his family at one time by shooting pool there, she said. In the past, it was a Turner's Hall and a place where she would eat cheese burgers and French fries. "I came to watch it and to cry," she said.
Firefighters doused the roof of the next door post office with water to keep the building safe. Chief Schmidt said that was a main concern. "The firefighters did a great job," he said.
Chief Schmidt said firefighters likely would be on-scene through the day and part of the evening. However, by 12:15 p.m., the fire appeared to be out and firefighters from neighboring departments were packing their hoses and equipment.
However, the intersection of LeClaire and 1st Street remained closed to traffic and filled with fire trucks, the street awash in water.
The North Scott School District notified parents by 10 a.m. bye email and recorded message it was aware of the fire and the smoke was not affecting Ed White Elementary, North Scott Junior High or High School -- the latter of which is located across the street from Del's.
According to the Scott County Assessor's website, the building is owned by DKD Leasing LLC. It was built in 1885.
Today is Thursday, April 17, the 107th day of 2014. There are 258 days left in the year.
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