ELYRIA, Ohio — Two teens have been arrested in connection with a fire at a building that once was home to Uncle Vic's Night Club. The Elyria building, dating back to 1899, was destroyed as a result of a fire that started on Wednesday night and burned into the morning on Thursday, according to Elyria assistant fire chief Joe Pronesti.
One 17-year-old has been charged with aggravated arson, failing to report a crime, and breaking and entering. A second 17-year-old has been charged with breaking and entering.
Both teens were arrested and transported to Lorain County Detention Home pending a hearing in juvenile court.
Crews responded at around 8 p.m. to the longtime vacant building at 100 Washington Ave., located next to the Robinson Building on Broad Street. Three of the building's floors were engulfed when firefighters first arrived.
The building was previously home to Uncle Vic’s Night Club, a well-known social hub for many.
“It was just so many great memories, so many great people that came, I mean, it was like a family," Marlene Walker, former owner of Uncle Vic's and Mardi Gras nightclubs said. "I always said it was like Cheers because everybody knew everybody else and it was just a fun time, fun place and we did a lot of parties."
Walker and her husband ran the clubs in the 1970s and 80s and came out to see the damage.
“It breaks my heart to see it," Walker said. "You hate to see something go when you know that it could maybe still exist, but times change."
Other Elyria residents also stopped by, many reminiscing about the good times shared in the building over the years.
“It was like a dance party, you know, getting together and socializing, having drinks and talking and dancing," Shantay Chapman, an Elyria resident, said.
Pronesti said crews went defensive, putting out the fire so it didn’t spread to the Robinson Building, which is separated by a narrow alley.
“The age of the building, the structural integrity before the fire, and then during the fire just caused us a lot of headaches,” said Pronesti.
Fourteen firefighters on duty did what Pronesti said was a miraculous job to save the Robinson Building and others in front of it. Pronesti said the Robinson Building and a second one near it are two of the oldest buildings in the city, both dating back to right after the Civil War.
At around midnight, News 5 photojournalist Mike Vielhaber captured a cloud of smoke that surrounded the building.
I walked around the east side of the Elyria fire around midnight and this is what I saw... pic.twitter.com/T6JJKuexQQ— Mike Vielhaber (@MVielhaber) February 25, 2021
Firefighters battled the fire from the outside as the inside of the building was unsafe, with wide-open floors and four open shafts.
Nearly every fire department in the county responded to help put out the fire, Pronesti said. No firefighters were injured.
Nearby businesses showed their support for first responders. Marco Pizza, located on South Abe Road, donated pizza and pop for first responders. McDonald's in downtown Elyria donated 100 hamburgers and coffee to first responders.
Crews tapped the water mains on Broad Street as a precautionary measure to make sure there was enough water to put out the fire.
After the fire was extinguished around 3:00 a.m., crews started to demolish the building. The city of Elyria said demolition will take up to five days to complete, with area cleanup estimated between two to three weeks.
With demolition underway and two teenagers in custody, many are thinking about how the space left behind by the historic building can be of use in the future.
“This space? You know what I hope to see with this space? That somebody builds something for the children," Chapman said. “An old era of what it used to be is gone - it's leaving. Let's do something. Let's do something better. Let's do something that uplifts community."
Mary Jane Schultz, who lived in the apartments that lined the top floor of the building, shared a similar sentiment.
“I'd really like to see something built there to where we could house teens," Schultz said. “Kids are lost, they don't know what to do. There's nothing really here in Elyria for them to do."