The fundraiser continues as Holly remembers the story lost in the fire
(Liam Feeney, August 6, 2022)
Holly, MI — Fundraising continues as the Holly community continues to work together following the June 24 fire that destroyed three buildings and shut several other small businesses due to power, smoke and water damage.
The fire started at Arcade Antiques, which was a total loss. It spread to the Holly Hotel and Andy’s Place, both of which are being rebuilt. Neighboring facilities such as Creative Fashions and the Holly Moose Lodge will remain closed. Though insurance covers some of the needs, Downtown Holly has partnered with Main Street Oakland County in a Patronicity fundraiser to help with uncovered needs.
The fundraiser, which can be found HERE, runs until August 14th.
The Oakland County Times spoke to members of the Holly community who were able to shed light on the fire and the aftermath, including where the community is going from here. “Holly has a long history of fires,” said Nicole Edwards-Rankin of the Holly Historic Society. “The Holly Hotel itself has survived a number of fires before.”
The buildings really do represent more than just commerce in the city.” She continued, “They have a long history that stretches back to the very beginnings of the city itself. They have a lot of personality and memories associated with them.
“My husband and I had our first date at Andy’s. The hotel has hosted countless weddings, not to mention the other downtown businesses that have had to close due to the fire.”
Andy’s Place wasn’t always the busy restaurant most locals know today. Compared to the other buildings it was more of a revolving door for businesses going in and out. Before Andy’s Place it was known as Broad Street Station. But something about this Andy’s Place has resonated with the community since it opened in 2014, and it’s been a community staple ever since.
The Holly Hotel is a face of an old era in the United States and serves as one of the few remaining railroad hotels in the entire country. In its day, the hotel has seen presidents like George Bush Sr., hosted the Stanley Cup when the Red Wings recaptured it in the late ’90s, and even hosted significant local events like the famous arrival of the Cary Nation, where a Pro-Temperance Movement arose into the city, smashing liquor bottles with their ax and causing a brawl so big it led to a visit from the governor to assess the damage.
The hotel, which has been used as a restaurant rather than accommodation for the last several decades, even suffered two fires before – in 1913 and 1973, each time the remains of the hotel were used in some way for reconstruction. This recent fire has left the hotel’s facade intact while most of the repair work is being carried out inside and to the rear of the building.
But the complete loss of Arcade Antiques not only took with it a historic building, but also the myriad pieces of history that the store held.
After opening in 1990, it served as a kind of time machine for the community with a variety of vendors selling antiques of all kinds. Countless artifacts have come through the arcade doors over the decades, from classic toys to old-fashioned tools to long-lost eras of fashion and long-lost books from times past, all reduced to ash in the flames.
Although it has been weeks, the community is still mourning. Visitors take photos of the brick stacks and the buildings’ standing walls, and share stories with strangers who come to see the rubble. Someone put up an American flag to mark the spot.
“The community really cared about these buildings and their history,” said Joe Mishler, another Holly Historical fan. “When the fire started, I had a moment where I was like, ‘Oh boy, we left again’ before the firefighters got there.”
When the fire broke out, it quickly became a major emergency, to the point where a multitude of other fire engines from other communities were called to help. From places like Grand Blanc, Fenton and Brandon-Ortonville down to Troy, dozens of firefighters were deployed to fight the blaze. In the end, over seventeen different communities and over a hundred firefighters came to fight the inferno.
“It’s been really impressive how much support we’ve received from other communities,” Mishler said, “and not just from them, but from the people in the community as well. We had people providing water and Gatorade while the firefighters rotated. Especially when the fire got worse and they had to move the firefighters who were resting. Hell, they didn’t have drivers for the ambulances at some point because they were also fighting the fire. But even with that, the courage these guys showed as they fought the fire was incredible.”
Tiny moments like this, or the firefighters backing out of the ally between two stores just before a heat wave engulfs them, or the donation box and sign at the local ice cream shop, Ziggy’s, that burned but left the building itself intact, these are the small victories celebrated throughout the day and the damage revealed.
Even before the fire was out, people across the city were thinking of what they could do to help. There was talk online about how to bring the community together and in various posts people asked what they could do to help those affected. When the fire died out, the community really got active. “We are already working with the business owners on how we can help and organize fundraisers for them,” said Edwards-Rankin.
Nick Klempp, Director of the Downtown Development Authority, was the point of contact for the fundraising collaboration. The Patronicity page has raised over $20,000 and there are other fundraisers including a t-shirt design fundraiser by the Village of Holly Fire Department which can be found at http://hollyfirefundraiser.itemorder.com/ is.
“The DDA Economic Vitality Committee is drafting the application and process for allocating funds to buildings, businesses, employees, tenants and vendors, and has already sent out a needs survey to affected businesses,” Klemp told the Oakland County Times. There was also support from the Charles Stewart Harding Mott, II, Holly Michigan Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.
“We want to make sure that we can help as comprehensively as possible,” said Mischler. “The community has already shown a commitment to helping these businesses rebuild and supporting them throughout the journey. It’s tragic, but Holly has been through things like this before and we always get through it.”
The determination in the voices of everyone who talks about fire is enough to give you goosebumps. “I’ve heard a lot of people say we’ve lost a piece of history,” said Mrs. Edwards-Rankin, “but we haven’t lost history, it’s just changed. And it is up to us to cherish that memory.”
“It’s another page in Holly’s history book,” Mishler says, “and while it’s sad, I think we shouldn’t just remember the fire, but the community that comes together.”
The fundraiser, which can be found HERE, runs until August 14th.