REPRINTS

"Waranoke Inn"
Fire Destroyed this Downtown Landmark on October 12, 2013

by Susan Barlow for the Manchester Historical Society


The building at #801-809 Main Street, the former Waranoke Inn, was built circa 1904 in the Colonial Revival style. The building was in the Downtown Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It had a restaurant, hotel rooms, and a saloon – although there were many in Town who opposed a liquor license for the owner, Mr. James E. O'Brien (1861-1911). Speaking in favor of a license before the State commissioners, were Mr. O'Brien, Judge Herbert Bowers, F. Ernest Watkins, Captain William Cheney, and Elwood Ela, publisher of the Manchester Herald. Speaking against were the Rev. George Reynolds pastor of Center Congregational Church, the Rev. William J. McGurk, pastor of St. James Roman Catholic Church, and F.A. Verplanck, principal of the schools in South Manchester. Also opposing was W.C. Tucker, manager of the Orford Hotel (which we know as the "Marlows" building), who had bought out Mr. O'Brien's interest for $6,500, not knowing that Mr. O'Brien intended to open another establishment nearby. Pastor McGurk was reported as asserting that the "hotel was built mainly for the barroom," according to a November 4, 1904 Hartford Courant article. A license was granted in February, 1905, and Mr. O'Brien continued to manage the Inn until his death, except for a couple of years when his nephew, Michael Boyle, was in charge. The Courant reports a gas explosion in November 1910 and a fire in April 1930, neither of which substantially damaged the building.

Quoting from the "Historical and Architectural Resource Survey" of Manchester the "former hotel has a central entry and symmetrical façade, with classically inspired details such as pilasters and flat arches, with keystone motif. The parapet, decorated with brick corbelling and brick dentils, runs across the façade and features a stepped parapet at the center." (The surveys that describe architectural and historic features of Manchester buildings are available at the Town Hall planning department, Manchester Historical Society, and public library.)

Until the terrible fire of October 12, 2013, the building served many uses, as listed in the Town directories, published annually:

The fire broke out about 9:22 p.m. Saturday, October 12, 2013, and continued to burn until 2:00 a.m. Sunday, when it was brought under control. Fire Chief Robert Bycholski said the fire broke out high in the basement of the bread shop. Natural gas lines in the basement fed the flames, causing the lower floors to "burn fiercely" and extending the flames quickly to the upper floors. No one was injured. What little was left of the brick and metal skeleton was razed.

The Historical Society is saddened by the loss of this historic building, and by the losses sustained by its owner, businesses and residents.

Click on each of these images to bring up a larger view plus explanatory text.