Timelines: Nevada City landmark leveled by fire
Special to The Union
On October 20, 1975, the landmark Torino Hotel on the Sacramento Street hill overlooking Deer Creek and the Golden Center Freeway collapsed in a smoldering pile of ashes into the deep depression that was once the building’s cellar.
“The setup was like a fireplace with the wind coming up from the (Deer) creek fanning the fire …,” a fireman at the scene reported. Despite efforts of the Nevada City Fire Department and many other area firefighting units battling the blaze, by 7:30 p.m. flames had completely erased the Torino from the face of the earth.
The old hotel had balanced on its hillside for more than a century serving the community as a hotel, dining room and rooming house. Just prior to the fire, a beer and wine bar, which had been operated at street level for some 25 years, closed its doors.
An oft repeated tale attached to the Torino is one that has been attributed through the years to most downtown commercial buildings. The story is that tunnels from the buildings basements served various functions from escape routes for evil doers to storage areas for smuggled goods.
Bob Flanigan, who “refuses to get up at 2:30 a.m. to be one of your Early Risers,” relates that a tunnel from the Old Brewery across Sacramento street served as a clandestine passage way for visitors to the rooms of the “ladies of the evening” who lived and worked upstairs in the Torino so many years past. Thanks, Bob, for that bit of history.
At the time of the fire, a prospective buyer had announced restoration plans which went up in smoke along with the saloon’s antique back bar and for many an oldtimer, myriad pleasant and otherwise memories.
Today, Miners Village, a collection of specialty shops and professional offices, occupies the site. It was also the site of a former car wash and ice vending machine viable in the “smoke” photo.
Congratulations, again to Early Riser Les Worthington, who may be on the verge of earning forced Emeritus designation for his many, many and frequent Early Risings.
And now the new rising designation y’all have been awaitin’, Complete Riser, and this week it goes to Frank Bennalack.
Frank also shares a bit of his family’s history: “My wife’s great grandmother, Cecelia Toccalini worked at the Torino cooking, and her wedding was there. She was always very quick to tell people ‘It was nice then (1910-1915), not like it is now (1975).'”
And then came Regular Riser Kenneth Holbrook followed by, not in order, Cheryl Kopp, Margaret Forbes, Ed Hayden, who “could see the flames and black smoke (from the fire) for miles;” Melanie Wellner, Charles S. Fowler, Dennis Babson, a retired ER, who laments that “there’s yet an other category? … now we’re subject … to one called the Complete Riser? What’s next, ‘Most Interesting Riser?'” Okay, Dennis “we’ll lighten up,” for now; Jerry Chan, Phil Oyung, Betty Berggren, Stan Dundas and William Tonini.
From Jim Luckinbill, resident cynic, “We live just up the street … and were home when it burned … the firemen just tried to keep the fire from spreading;” David and Marguerite Baxley, David Brewer, Mario Valceschini, Ken Jaynes, Leslie “Sis Jaynes” Schwilke, Brenda Apple, Stuey/Reggie Weills and Jean Rowe Keeny who asks, “Was one of the buildings a store of Mr. Fradilizio?” Can anyone help Jean?
And rounding off this TIMELINES! we have: Troy Ellen who placed second for this week’s Complete Riser award and who waxes nostalgic, “I never thought I would miss those noisy logging trucks but I do. I saw one on Gold Flat (Road) not long ago and it made me smile. … The hand rails on the sidewalks (in the photo) are a dead giveaway;” Thanks, Troy, and yes, the once prevalent and well-cursed log haulers are indeed an endangered species.
And now for a closing comment from Dolly Jaynes, third in this week’s Complete Riser category, and who, as a youngster, lived upstairs in the Old Brewery across the street and down from the dearly departed Torino.
Writes she, “Wow, the old Torino sure brings back a lot of memories … (of) John and Thelma Huse, Gloria, Zane & Scott Graham (former tenants) … Brenda (Apple) remembers sitting on the (Torino’s front) porch with John and counting the logging trucks as they went by (and) how excited we got when they would blow their horns for us … Thanks for the great memories.” Thanks one and all for your magnificent contributions.
Bob Wyckoff is a retired Nevada County newspaper editor/publisher and author of local history whose most recent work is “The Way It Was- Looking Back at Nevada County,” published by and available at: The Union newspaper office, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley CA 95945. As always, Any Risers may write to email@example.com or P.O. Box 216, Nevada City CA 95959.
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