Ward-Thomas Museum
503 Brown Street

Hoffman Fire March 1962

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Many of us remember the day of the Hoffman fire, it was a devastating fire that threatened many other stores in the area and for a while it looked like the whole town would burn down.

Many of the stores were built of wood frame and were very old, some dating back to the 1800’s. It took all of Niles firefighters and several other departments to knock the blaze out.

There were several people in the Hoffman Store when it started and everyone got out except a 67 year old lady on the second floor who was over come with smoke and died there.

The disastrous fire in 1962 that destroyed Hoffman's Department Store spelled the beginning of the decline of the downtown area. Shown here is the Nick Ragazzo Shop, which was so badly damaged it had to be torn down.

Shown here is the Nick Ragazzo Shop, which was so badly damaged it had to be torn down. SO3.56

The fire was a real tragedy, not only because of the loss of life, but also it marked the beginning decline of the downtown area. Because of the fire the adjacent buildings, Ragazzo's (the old Wagstaff-Jenkins drug store in the 1890's) and Pritchards had to be torn down due to the heat and smoke damage.

The fire started about 3:00 PM. Our local Red Cross Chapter immediately set up a refreshment stand and stood by until the last fireman left the scene.


The photographs below show various scenes from the Hoffman Fire.

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