July 29, 1905: Another devastating fire destroys much of Old Town, this one leveling everything between the City Hall building (actually, it was never used as a public building; it was occupied by Stafford’s Furniture Store and Hancock’s Hardware Store. Remnants of the building now form three walls of Bootlegger’s restaurant). Losses in Old Town were estimated at $100,000. As described in the following excerpts from a newspaper account, the brick construction of the American Hotel was instrumental in blocking the path of the fire and further devastation:
“The destruction of the entire lower town was ultimately saved by the American Hotel. The walls of this historic building will stand, apparently little worse for wear. It was built in the ‘50s and twice before has saved the town. Time had warped some of the iron window shutters, so they could not be tightly closed, and in this way the flames crept in from the burning hay barn alongside.
“North of the City Hall everything was burned up to and including the American Hotel, including the old Empire Hotel, Crosby’s livery stable and the saloon building belonging to Mrs. George Keehner.
“Once the flames got inside the American Hotel they were ‘bottled up,’ and if the walls stood, the rest of the town was safe. This they did. . .” (PH)
August 5, 1905: The Placer Herald headline was “Fire Aftermath,” and a short piece contained this notice: “The old American Hotel has been sold by Dan Russell of Colfax to Messrs. F. S. Roumage and L.L. Chamberlain. The price paid was $1,000. Whether they bought it on a ‘spec’ or whether it will be the future home of the Placer Hardware Co. is only conjecture.”
A more detailed report on the hotel followed: “The south side of the American Hotel wall fell in Monday night, and the front was blow down with powder Tuesday. A portion of the Snowden building was also taken down. The ruined district certainly looks like desolation.”
The new owners . . .had contemplated tearing the walls down part way, and making a one-story store building out of it. What they will do now is not settled. All day Monday Oscar Glover worked around the hotel walls cleaning out the debris, and he intended on Tuesday to go at it again, with the view of mining some of the ground, which undoubtedly has never been worked.
“The American Hotel was built over fifty years ago, the contract price being $60,000. It was certainly an old landmark, and many a grand ball and supper, and many a good time was had there in the olden days. Some say the bricks were made on Rich Flat near Auburn, and must certainly be rich in gold; others say the bricks were sent up from San Francisco.” (PH)
The building was so badly damaged as a result of the 1905 that the American Block was reconfigured as a one-story structure. If you look closely on the side of the building, you can see the outline in brick where windows were formerly located.