Horse-drawn wagon on a dirt street in front of a large two-story building

Wagon at the Occidental Hotel, 1892-1893. The hotel’s livery stable is on the left, and its water tower and windmill are behind the structures. The steeple of the Mendocino Presbyterian church is visible on the far left.

April 22, 1899 – The Occidental Hotel’s livery stable was destroyed by fire. Shortly after 5 am, heavy smoke was discovered coming from the roof of the barn located southeast of the intersection of Lansing and Main Streets. The Beacon reported, “The fire bell was rung, and before many minutes a sufficient number had responded to the call to get out the fire apparatus and haul it to the scene of action. The fire gained rapid headway, however, and before a stream of water was started the entire structure was a mass of flames.”

A half-full tank of coal oil was inside and exploded soon after the fire started. “This greatly hurried the destruction of the stables and prevented the removal of any of its contents.” Five horses perished. A sixth horse broke his halter and escaped. In addition to two stage coaches that burned, “Switzer & Boyd lost a wagon, Brown & Gray had two buggies destroyed, one of which was new and had never been used, and A. Brilliant is minus a delivery wagon. All of these vehicles were stored in the barn.”

Unable to save the stables, “every effort was directed towards protecting the hotel. The buildings and woodwork connecting the two were torn down, blankets saturated with water were placed on the side exposed to the fire and a steady stream of water from the fire engine was poured on the side of the burning structure next to the hotel. These efforts soon began to tell, and the fire having eaten up the greater part of the stable, with no new material to consume, gradually began to die down. The tower situated south of the barn was ignited soon after the fire gained good headway, and like the barn it burned rapidly. Both tanks contained water and when the tower fell it helped somewhat to deaden the flames, The wash house which stood between the hotel and barn took fire several times, but by strenuous efforts it was saved, though badly damaged.”

In 1941, the hotel also burned to the ground and was never rebuilt.

The Volunteers: History of the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department by Walt McKeown and Linda Wilson – Recounts the great fires since 1870, countless heroic rescues and the camaraderie and struggles involved in keeping an all volunteer force intact from 1887 to the present day. $15.