March 20, 1985. I was three. My dad got a phone call at 4am letting him know his hardware store was on fire.
I’m not sure how much of my memory of that day and the days following are real, or filled in with stories, photos, and newspaper articles.
I for sure remember standing across the street in front of the bakery, where an attorney’s office is now, next to what is now Radio Shack. I remember the smell of the bakery, and I remember the smell of the fire.
March 20th doesn’t usually slip by in my family without a mention of the fire. But the recent block fire in Ovid got me thinking ahead, and gave me some time to gather old photos and newspaper clippings, and prepare a post to jog your own memory.
But first, a little history.
The Pinckney Hardware building was an old one. Before it was built though, Betts & Stanford hardware store occupied that spot on the corner, opening in 1823. In 1841, a new building–the one that burned in 1985–was built there. A number of businesses occupied the building over the next few years, and in 1861, Armstrong & Gage established a hardware store there.
The store changed hands a few times, and by 1885 the store was called Hollowell & Wise.
Another change of hands in 1917 to Christie B. Briggs, and then in 1945 to Edward Pinckney.
You can see Pinckney & Son Hardware on the photo above, where downtown Penn Yan burning… something? There must be a story there, but I don’t know it. But look at that grand building there on the corner.
And here it is in the early morning of March 20th, 1985.
Deputy Rider took the 2 photos above as he got to the scene. He wasn’t the first one on the scene – you can see a firefighter in the one photo. But he’d have been one of the first.
The fire started within a furnace.
Firefighters from Penn Yan (and surrounding departments, I would imagine) kept the fire from taking out the entire block, which, looking at the photos, didn’t look like an easy job. They worked a loooong, long time on this one.
The safe was charred a bit.
And they pulled it out of a window before the building was to be demolished. The safe was restored, and repainted, and is still in use at Pinckney’s today. Next time you stop in, ask to see it.
Pinkney Hardware moved their store to a temporary location up the street a ways, to what is now Cole’s Furniture & Floor Fashions. They stocked the store with merchandise from their warehouse.
The business stayed here, at 123 Main St, while their damaged building was demolished, and a new building was rebuilt.
We have a great video of the fire, and the demolition (the wrecking ball and everything – it’s pretty cool) on VHS. I will get that up on YouTube at some point, so you might want to subscribe to my YouTube channel or check back often.
The store opened again in it’s new building the following year. And of course, it’s still there today. I checked to make sure on my way to work this morning. It’s still there.
Some other odds and ends I found, like newspaper clippings and a history of the building are below. Everything here in this blog post was scanned by me, but please keep in mind the copyright to the original owner still remains.