One year later, Kellogg is still healing from McConnell fire

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Photo by JOSH MCDONALD Shoshone Fire District No. 2 firefighter Joe Andersen as he fought the McConnell Hotel fire one year ago.

By JOSH MCDONALD

Staff Reporter

KELLOGG — It was one year ago this past Wednesday that the mighty McConnell Hotel building in Kellogg met its fiery demise.

The day was an odd one for residents and first responders alike, as several smaller fires tore their way through the Valley around the same time.

It was just before 3 p.m. Aug. 29, 2017, when a fire broke out in the rear section of the top floor of the 100-year-old building and chaos ensued.

In the midst of a three-month period with zero rain and record setting temperatures, the conditions were already perfect for a fire. Then as an added punch the wind began to blow, resulting in ash and embers setting fire to nearby rooftops and even setting the adjacent hillside ablaze.

While the hotel was the primary casualty of the fire, surrounding buildings took their share of damage as well. Patrick’s Steakhouse a block away was the second-greatest loss that day.

According to Shoshone County Fire District No. 2 Chief Mark Aamodt, the cause of the fire is still unknown to this day.

With the hollow core state of the building and the total destruction of everything except for sections of the outer walls, there was no way for fire investigators to determine an exact cause, but there have been rumors the fire was caused by old electrical wiring that had been being used for drop lights and power tools inside the building, but at this point that is nothing more than speculation.

Over the years, the building had housed a multitude of things including a luxury hotel, an attempted ski resort, a barber shop, a bar and lounge, apartments, a brokerage office, and most recently a coffee shop.

At one point in time, it was the grandest building in the city of Kellogg, and the prominent people of the area would take the train from Spokane, Coeur d’Alene or Missoula and stop in Kellogg to inspect the mining work being done at the Bunker Hill, then stay the night at the McConnell.

The McConnell was strategically placed on the corner of Main Street and McKinley Avenue where it was less than a mile from Bunker Hill operations in Wardner and Kellogg and only two blocks from the Kellogg Train Station.

Former Pennaluna stock broker Jerome Bunde looked back on the building fondly.

“It was quite a building,” Bunde said. “It served the people of Kellogg very well.”

For now the lot sits empty, but that isn’t necessarily cause for concern.

Many were worried that the lot would end up forever vacant or be turned into a parking lot, but the new owners of the property have other ideas.

Radio Brewing purchased the land (which is actually two different lots) and has some ideas for potential plans.

The popular brewery was front and center for the fire and it makes sense that Kellogg’s most popular new uptown business would be a part of preserving the memory of the McConnell.

“We just really love uptown Kellogg and we just want to see it get better and better," Radio Brewing co-owner Ashley Holden said. “Obviously it (whatever they decide for the lot) will have something to do with the brewery, we need more space already.”

While nothing is set in stone at this moment besides brewery use, there have been ideas tossed around to make part of the lot a community space as well.

“We do care about uptown,” Holden said. “We just wanted it to be something cool and not just end up vacant forever."

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