WYTHEVILLE — A town landmark and favorite dining spot for locals and visitors alike caught on fire Tuesday evening, but most of the building survived the blaze.
No one was injured.
Town Fire Chief Marc Brade said the fire was contained to the kitchen and the attic. Approximately 80% of the restaurant was untouched by fire, but there was water damage, he said.
Kish Hatchel, daughter of restaurant owner James and Pat Green, said Wednesday morning that the fire started above the grill. Employees extinguished the fire, but noticed flames in the vent. Employees then checked outside the building at the kitchen area and saw flames at the vent.
The employees ran inside and evacuated all employees and customers. Within minutes of the 6 p.m. 911 call, the Wytheville Fire Department arrived to find flames shooting from the attic and a fire in the kitchen. Firefighters extinguished the kitchen fire and continued battling the burning roof. About 6:25 p.m., a portion of the roof collapsed and the restaurant’s future looked in doubt, but firefighters, on the ground and on a ladder truck, continued to fight the fire.
Brade said firefighters from Wytheville, Max Meadows and Rural Retreat had the fire under control by 6:40 p.m.
“It absolutely was a very serious fire,” Brade said. “With quick response and manpower, we were able to save a massive percentage of the entire building.”
Standing outside his restaurant Wednesday morning, James Green said he plans to reopen the restaurant. As he spoke, employees worked to filling up an SUV with perishable food, which will be stored at the Wytheville Meeting Center, where Green frequently caters meals.
When Green bought the building 46 years ago, he said he wasn’t sure a log house was part of the structure, but he suspected it because of the thick windows.
The outside was covered in weather boarding and vines, and on the inside, the walls were plaster.
“Do you know why it was covered in weather boarding?” he asked. “Because people who lived in log houses were looked down on in the early 1900s, so they covered it up. That’s why the walls were plastered inside, too.
Green tore away the boarding, vines and plaster to reveal the two-story log cabin with an addition attached. As you enter the restaurant, the original log cabin is to your left. The fire damaged the ceiling of the original log house, but none of the original logs were damaged.
Green has added onto the structure over the years, including adding two gift shops and a lounge. He also created a garden where bunnies roam. All the rabbits, along with Loki the cat, were unharmed.
The age of the original log house is somewhat murky — the town lists the construction at around 1790, a couple of years before the town was founded; however, Green’s research dates it to 1776, the year the country was founded, Hatchel said.
In 1975, when Green purchased the building, he operated the Temptation Bakery out of the original log house with friend Jerry Younce while he remodeled most of the building. The Log House Restaurant opened in the fall of 1976. Since then, The Log House has been a go-to spot for nearly everyone in town and people passing though.
Green was working in one of the gift shops when someone ran over to tell him about the fire.
“It just goes blank,” he said. “It’s kind of like a death of someone; you go numb for a while.”
He said that he and his family have received phone calls and messages from people all across the United States checking about the restaurant, his family and employees.
“People stop here on their way to Myrtle Beach and Florida,” Hatchel said. “We have gotten messages from customers from all over. The outpouring of messages from customers who have been coming here for years has been unbelievable.”