I t was a general store, a historic landmark, a business and a home, but now it’s gone. A fire heavily damaged the Bedlam Corners General Store in Hebron Friday morning, Dec. 10, leaving two people without a place to live, a business to operate and a community without a place to get a cup of coffee or a box of doughnuts.
Fire departments from nine area communities, including Granville, worked in frigid temperatures to battle a tenacious blaze reported just after 9 a.m. at the Hebron landmark.
Five hours later, when the fire was finally considered out, the building was gutted on the second floor with heavy water damage to the ground floor.
Bedlam Corners owner Marie Mulligan lived upstairs at the location with her teenage son Zack. Mulligan was unavailable for comment at the time of the fire, getting out of the cold in a neighbor’s house.
Neighbor Harold Mattison lives just a few doors up Chamberlain Mills Road from the store.
“We were both in there getting coffee this morning,” Mattison said.
He was getting a cup with his son Jerry sometime between 8:30 and 9 a.m. when a hunter who stopped in for hot cocoa pointed out sparks or flames in the area of the chimney. “We were right there when it started,” he said.
Mattison said the man indicated “the tin ring around where the pipe goes in (to the wall).” The group moved the woodstove and attempted to put down the fire with an extinguisher, he said.
“It was a big fire extinguisher too, a brand new one,” Mattison said. The group used two fire extinguishers before calling for help, but could not stop the flames.
Floyd Pratt, acting as Hebron’s fire chief at the scene, later confirmed a chimney fire spread to start the fire. Pratt said a damaged flue caused the fire.
The construction of the building, estimated to be more than 200 years old, contributed to the spread of the fire as well as making it more difficult to fight, fire officials said. Pratt said the building’s “balloon construction” contained no “fire stops” which would prevent a fire from going all the way from the cellar to the roof without interruption.
Firefighters who were at the scene said a layer of cedar shakes under the slate roof made the fire especially difficult to extinguish. Despite the difficulties, Pratt said the firefighters did a good job making a stop on a fire that was “out the roof” before fire fighters arrived on scene.
“It’s a real shame for the town to lose that store,” Pratt said.
The historic structure is perhaps best known outside of the community as a frequent haunt of local author Jon Katz.
Responding fire department included Hebron, Cossayuna, Greenwich, Salem, Hartford, Shushan, West Pawlet, Vt., Granville Engine and Hose and Granville Hook & Ladder with Cambridge and Rupert, Vt. in coverage.