April 9, 2008 Edition

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Firefighters battle a blazing fire that destroyed the building that had formerly housed the Hob-Nob Restaurant, a bridal shop and motel rooms. See additional photos at lawrencecounty.biz
Submitted Photo ~ Robert Warden

Fire destroys former
Hob-Nob Restaurant

The flagstone and brick shell of the Hob-Nob Restaurant building remained standing, while fire gutted the inside.
TD Photo ~ John Bland
John Bland

An early morning fire, reported at 2:52 a.m. Monday, destroyed the structure that had once housed the Hob Nob Restaurant, a bridal shop and motel rooms and apartments.

The familiar landmark was located on a curve at 415 Northwest Fourth Street (Hwy. 67B), across from the Polar Freeze.

Walnut Ridge firemen arrived on the scene at 2:55 a.m., at which time the massive blaze was well involved. Due to the size of the fire, Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Alan Haskins said reinforcements were called in to help.

Assisting with the effort were departments from Hoxie, Alicia, Sedgwick, Portia and Imboden, which brought their mobile support trailer to the scene to fill bottles for the firemen's air packs.

Walnut Ridge firemen also used their new aerial ladder truck for its maiden fire run.

Haskins said the fire has been determined to be of "suspicious" origin, because of the size and intensity of the blaze and because no power or utilities were hooked up to the building.

According to the 9-1-1 log, firemen called at 2:57 a.m. for help in blocking off Hwy. 63B.

At 3:07 a.m., they made calls to contact Entergy and CenterPoint Energy. Haskins explained that utilities are routinely cut off at meters, and the electric and gas companies were contacted to cut lines at the power poles for added safety.

At 3:27 a.m., City Water Works was contacted "to boost the (water) pressure," Haskins said. Firemen were using four fire hydrants and needed more water pressure.

Haskins said the Walnut Ridge Police Department was contacted, and they contacted the Arkansas State Police, who also came on the scene to investigate the fire. Brent Tosh with Troop C of the Arkansas State Police in Jonesboro was contacted late Tuesday afternoon but was unavailable for an update.

Haskins said fires continued to smolder and burn where the roof, with tar and shingles, had collapsed. The fire was not considered completely extinguished until Tuesday morning.

"We'd like to ask for people not to go up there and look around (in the remaining structure)," Haskins said. "It's really dangerous."

Building at least 70 years old

Charles "Butch" White, owner of the structure said he believes the structure "was at least 70 years old, maybe older." He said he had no insurance on the building and that the restaurant had last been open in December.

White said he recalled that his parents, Bob and Bobbie White, purchased the restaurant and building in mid 1970s.

White's sister, Pat White Vidal, said their parents purchased it from the late Ed and Gladys Summers.

John Summers recalled that his parents operated the restaurant for over 20 years. They leased it from the late Melville Neece.

Another previous owner of the cafe, prior to the Summers, was the late Cecil Pickrell. Cecil was an uncle of Buck Pickrell of Walnut Ridge. Buck was not certain of the years that his uncle operated the restaurant. Cecil Pickrell has previously had a motel in Neelyville, Mo, prior to that, he said.

Vidal said she operated a bridal shop between the years of 1983 and 1997 in a space connected to the restaurant that was once a truck stop. Three or four motel rooms were located in front between the restaurant and bridal shop. Four to six rooms were also located on the back or south side of the bridal shop.

Vidal said her mother oversaw the apartments and the restaurant before her health declined. "She had a real good business at one time," she added.

The Whites in earlier years also owned the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Hoxie.

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