GLASSWORKS – A structure fire that started about 5:30 a.m. Sunday engulfed the historic Ice Plant Restaurant in Glassworks. Firefighters from 10 volunteer companies across Greene and Fayette counties responded to the blaze that filled the surrounding valley with smoke. Two other companies were on standby.
State Fire Marshal Steve Thompson said the cause of the blaze is still under investigation. However, Thompson is looking at an electric cooler in the restaurant area of the business as the potential cause.
Freezing temperatures made the efforts of dozens of firefighters all the more difficult as water was not available from frozen hydrants. Tanker trucks were brought to the scene to assist but fire had gathered between layers of ceilings from years of remodeling.
“We knew we couldn’t stop it once it got in between all of the different ceilings,” said Greensboro fire Chief Gary Drew.
Family and friends of restaurant owner Lisa Miller were in tears as they watched a bulldozer begin to tear down the front portion of the restaurant a little after 9 a.m. This was deemed necessary as the structure was unstable and firemen feared it would later collapse and hurt someone. The remains flared as the front wall tumbled into the dining area.
One of Miller’s relatives reported the fire when they looked out a window of their home, located about 100 yards behind and to the right of the restaurant and saw smoke.
“We had a fire (at the restaurant) in 2001 when an Allegheny Power transformer blew but it was nothing like this,” Miller said through tears. “I’m never ever going to be able to replace my original Ice Plant. It’s gone.”
Standing in the icy parking lot next to the restaurant, Miller said she was touched by how many people reached out to her.
“So many people have been here this morning, texted or called me. It touched my heart, really. I’m just devastated. I have been speechless, screaming, crying and just sick,” Miller said. “I love this town and this business. What are the old people going to do? Some of them eat here every day.”
Miller’s parents, Jim and JoAnn Rumble bought and renovated the building in 1982. The 1985 Election Day Flood destroyed their work. Seventeen years later, Curt and Lisa Miller brought it back to life, keeping its historical significance to the town in mind.
The original part of the building was built in the early 1900s by the Gabler family. They sold ice, ice cream and soda pop. The Gablers later operated a dance hall on the second floor and a food business until they closed in 1979.
There were a few special items the Greensboro firemen saved from the structure for Miller. Sadly, the fireplace mantle from the original structure was not among them. Historic photos of the Greensboro and Glassworks area that hung on the dining room walls, a chef statue that greeted guests as they came into the restaurant and the Ice Plant Restaurant sign that hung on the front of the building were salvaged.
When the sign was safely on the ground, Miller vowed to rebuild, telling those gathered, “We’ll hang it on the new Ice Plant.”