Cortez too tough to die because of fires

Thursday, March 9, 2017 6:21 PM
From left: The Parker Rooming House, probably Farmer's Drug, restaurant, unknown buildings and The Cortez Herald newspaper.
From left: The Palace Barber Shop with Beauty Shop; the Shaftstall Store - Ladies Ready to Wear; Sugar Shell Cafe and Tea Room; William Smail’s Barber Shop; the Bargain Store; Gregory’s Toggery Shop; and the McEwen building, which didn’t burn in November 1929.

In 1929, several buildings burned on Main Street due to a fire that occurred early on a Sunday morning. On Feb. 9 of this year three businesses were lost due to fire.

These were basically in the same location on Main Street. Buildings lost in February were Stewarts Floor Covering, Family Shoes & More and Cortez Works. These fires burned up to the site of the old Parker Hotel (now White Cup Coffee House). To the east, the El Grande Restaurant remained standing as did the rest of the block.

From The Cortez Journal-Herald Thursday, Nov. 28, 1929:

“In November 1929, the Cortez fire bell announced the fact that a fire was on some place in town. It wasn’t hard to locate as a cloud of black smoke was rising up from the roof of the “Sour Lemon” Café on Main street west of the Gregory Toggery Shop.

“The building was owned by D. H. Sayler, who also owned the building occupied by Wm. Smail, barber, and Mrs. Rutherford who ran the “Bargain Store” between the Smail barber shop and the Gregory Store.

“The fire department made a heroic fight to save the buildings, but had to work at a great disadvantage as the fire plugs in the vicinity were frozen up and delayed the men for several minutes from getting action on the flames. In the meantime, the fire gained in momentum and soon reached the Johnson building west of the Sayler buildings. Considerable damage was done to the Light Company’s office and also to the Duncan barber shop between the Light Company’s office and the Farmer Drug Store. The latter was damaged some by the water and smoke but not to the extent of compelling Mr. Farmer to close his place.

“He is now doing business as of yore. Before the flames reached the Parker Hotel, the fighters had it under control, and also had it shut off on the east side just as the flames were leaping against the Gregory Store.

“As luck would have it there was no wind blowing that morning, which probably saved the rest of the block from going up in smoke.

“It is hard to estimate just what the damage was but it must have reached some six or seven thousand dollars.

“Most of the property owners carried some insurance, with the exception of Doctor Johnson, but nothing like enough to cover the losses sustained. The Johnson building can be repaired with an expenditure of five or six hundred dollars, but Mr. Sayler’s buildings are damaged beyond repair, and the Journal-Herald is informed that the Sayler buildings will be replaced by a modern fire-proof building.”

Some background information

Farmer’s Drug Store at that time was located in the group of building next to the Parker Hotel (area of 2014 fire). The Gregory building was located next to Love on a Hanger, 34 E. Main St. The “Sour Lemon” Café was located east of the El Grande Café; therefore probably all of the buildings from about 16 E. Main to 34 E. Main may have been lost in the fire of 1929.

This is the third major fire in downtown Cortez – each corner of Market and Main suffered severe fires.

In 1919, a fire occurred on the “Toggery Corner” known as the “Bozman Garage Fire.” Cortez was the town too tough to die because of fires on all four corners of the main business areas of Cortez during the period of time of 1896 through 1929.

Article written by June Head, Historian of Montezuma County Historical Society. Please direct questions or comments to her at 970-565-3880.