What remains of the Winlock Haunted Hostel was barricaded behind caution tape and a chain link fence this week as the City of Winlock continues working on plans to demolish the now-unstable historic structure as soon as possible.
“We’re going to have to have it demoed as soon as possible to open up the city, get the streets open and flowing again like they need to be,” said Winlock Mayor Brandon Svenson at a Winlock City Council meeting on Monday.
The meeting was held nearly one week after a fire destroyed the top floors of the Haunted Hostel and melted through nearby power lines.
“It’s way too hazardous and unstable to have people walking by it or driving by it at this point, so we’ll look to get that (demolition) done, hopefully by the end of the week here,” Svenson said.
Fire crews responded at approximately 7:25 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, at which time all of the building’s human occupants had evacuated. Except for minor injuries sustained by a firefighter in a fall, and reports that some cats were unaccounted for, no injuries were reported in what became a massive blaze in downtown Winlock.
Crews remained on the scene battling the fire and monitoring hotspots throughout the next day.
Power has been restored to Winlock residents, but internet and cell service in some parts of town was still down as of Wednesday.
Svenson took time during Monday’s meeting to thank the agencies that responded to the Nov. 8 fire, as well as community members collecting donations for displaced hostel residents.
Svenson added that the city was aware of hazards inside the building prior to the fire and was working to address them, saying the city had “a pretty substantial folder” on the hostel and adding “we were kind of right there on the steal, but nevertheless, thankful that nobody got hurt, to my knowledge.”
The structure has been evaluated by both the City of Winlock’s civil engineer and building inspector, as well as an outside structural engineer, who all determined the building needs to come down, according to Svenson.
As the building was uninsured by the owner, Svenson said “the state is going to be on the hook for this.”
He added, “We’re going to end up most likely putting a lien on the property at the end of it, trying to recoup what we can, but it’s not a great situation. There’s not a lot of options. I mean it’s right there in the main part of town, extremely unstable, and so it has to be handled.”
The building was first home to Warne’s NYAL Drug Store as early as 1911, but was destroyed in a fire shortly before Feb. 2, 1912, and was rebuilt by the owner, according to a San Juan Islander article preserved by the U.S. Library of Congress.
Winlock residents recall that the town’s now-extinct local newspaper, Winlock News, operated out of the basement for a time while Warne’s was still operating. Records preserved by the Winlock Historical Museum confirm the Winlock Phone Company operated a switchboard upstairs from 1922 to 1953.
The switchboard itself is preserved in the Winlock History Museum.
In the years that followed, the building housed Katheryn’s Beauty Salon, Bugg’s Pool Hall, an exercise studio, a real estate office, Kay’s Yarn Barn and an antique shop, according to the Winlock Historical Museum.
The Haunted Hostel, B&B and Hotel opened in the building roughly six years ago.
The Red Cross and the Salvation Army offered temporary emergency resources to displaced residents in Centralia through Wednesday morning and Lewis County Emergency Management is looking for ways to help those displaced by the fire get back into long-term housing.
The United Way of Lewis County maintains a list of available community resources and social services in the area at https://www.lewiscountyuw.com/get-help.