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Look Back: Fire spells end for Terrapin Park

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

The Terrapin Park Casino. When constructed in 1899-1900 the casino was reputed to be the largest frame structure in West Virginia, capable of easily accommodating 6,000 persons. The building literally went out “in a blaze of glory” in August 1917. (Photo from “Terrapin Park, Parkersburg, West Virginia, A History” by Jeff and Christy Little)

Doubtful if the park will be rebuilt

Another of the landmarks of Parkersburg was wiped out last night when the casino at Terrapin Park was burned to the ground, not a stick of the timber which formed the building being left when the fire which burned itself out at a late hour in the morning, destroyed the entire building at a loss of at least $30,000 to $40,000 including the contents.

It was a most spectacular fire because of the construction of the building which was built at this popular amusement resort about 15 years ago. The building was constructed entirely of wood, and as is usually the case in building such places it was of a nature that would easily succumb to flames.

The fire started as nearly as could be ascertained in the store room of the building which is situated near the center of the building. Jack Crane, one of the brothers who have managed the park for the past few years was just going to bed when he noticed the odor of smoke and started to investigate. With the night watchman he made an investigation and found the fire in the storage room.

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An immense crowd

Never before in the history of Parkersburg has there been such a crowd at a fire as that which congregated at the park while the casino was burning. From all parts of the city, by street cars, by automobiles, and on foot hundreds of people rushed to the scene and remained there until late in the morning watching the dying embers which marked what had been one of the most popular amusement resorts in the city.

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Last of the park

It [is] likely that this will be the last of Terrapin Park as it has been rumored for some time that the traction company was figuring on abandoning the place. It was stated on reliable authority last night that plans had been made by which the buildings in the park were to be removed and that the place was to be turned into a “beauty spot” for the city.

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Old Glory flying

When the fire last night at Terrapin Park was at its height, it was remarked by a great many people that the American flag which was flying from the mast at the top of the building, was withstanding the flames and that it was proudly responding to the breeze which was coming up the ravine from Twenty-third Street.

However, it was not long before the tongues of the flames which were encircling the building finally got the flag and it went up in a blaze of glory. There was a flash and when the air cleared again and it was possible to see, there was nothing left but the flag pole and it was ablaze. Within a few minutes, the whole structure fell in and the last of the old casino had passed into the cauldron of seething flames along with the flag.

The Parkersburg Sentinel

Aug. 29, 1917

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Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical Society. Would you like to help preserve our past for future generations? The society offers informative monthly meetings and an interesting, 20-page quarterly newsletter. Dues are just $20/year. Send to: WCHPS, P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.

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