Charred Anchor Inn building torn down, owners look at rebuilding options

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Andrea Behling
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

NEWVILLE—Owners John and Dawn Kinnett said a final goodbye to the charred Anchor Inn building as it was torn down Tuesday.

A jumble of metal, wood beams and burnt rubble sat atop the building's foundation, original from the 1860s, John said.

It's been two and a half weeks since flames and smoke caused $500,000 to $1 million damage to the building. The fire started in a void above the kitchen in the early morning Aug. 4, according to a Rock County Sheriff's Office news release.

The bar and restaurant, situated along the Rock River at 718 E. Highway 59 in the town of Fulton, was “close to a total loss,” according to the release.

Investigators finished looking into the fire, and the cause remains undetermined, Capt. Todd Christiansen of the Rock County Sheriff's Office told The Gazette.

Investigators looked into the possibility the fire was set by burglars to cover their tracks, but no evidence of a burglary was found, Christiansen said.

John and Dawn said they now have four options, ranging from doing nothing at the site to completely rebuilding, John said.

They still are working with an insurance agency to determine what they'll do next, he said.

Rebuilding is a favorable option, but it would be a long road to get back to where they were, John said.

“We're still pretty young at 50, but it's almost like starting over. We've got to determine how much we want to start over,” John said.

They had to cancel four reservations after the fire, but they plan to somehow honor September reservations.

The outdoor bar, The Mermaid, went untouched by the fire, and the Kinnetts plan to reopen the outdoor area Sept. 6.

The Kinnetts on Aug. 22 were given permission to tear down the building, which had a gaping hole in the ceiling above the kitchen.

The first part of the demolition meant cleaning out the building and taking anything worth saving. Not a lot was salvageable, John said.

The second part is clearing the debris. Dumpsters couldn't come in quickly enough to handle the building rubble, so demolition will continue Wednesday, John said.

After cleaning up and airing out wood-beam tables brought out of the wreckage Tuesday, John said they still smelled pretty bad.

He planned to throw away the tables until community members showed interest in taking home a piece of Anchor Inn nostalgia.

“Almost all the tables made their way to somebody's house,” John said.

The character of the original Anchor Inn building is something John hopes to replicate if they rebuild, he said. During the clean out, workers saved pieces of wood that could be used in a new structure.

“It was a pig, but it had a lot of lipstick on it. It had character. We loved it. It really fit our lifestyle,” John said.

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