of us remember the day of the Hoffman fire, March 23, 1962, 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 the 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.
Shown here is the Hoffman store
between Nick Ragazzo Shop and Pritchard's Mens Wear, both were
so badly damaged they had to be torn down. SO3.56
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.