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Christmas Day fire ravaged The Palmer House in 1974

This week's trip down memory lane harkens back to a dark day in the downtown

Postcard Memories is a weekly series of historic postcard views and photos submitted by Marcel Rousseau. Some were previously published by the Orillia Museum of Art and History and in the book Postcard Memories Orillia. You can take a trip down memory lane with us each Saturday morning!

Post Office c.1930.

The first building on the right, with the sign over the entrance, is the Palmer House, at the corner of Colborne and Peter streets. The next is the Knights of Columbus hall, and then the old post office building which is now the Orillia Museum of Art and History.  

The K of C building housed D’Arcy Cooke’s barber shop and the G.J. Overand Insurance and Real Estate office on the main floor. Upstairs was the hall, used for meetings, dances and special events.   

In the late 1960s, the building was destroyed by fire and the Knights of Columbus moved to a new location on Mississaga Street East.

The Palmer House, managed for many years by J.W. Shanahan, was completely destroyed by fire on Christmas Day in 1974.   

Francis Smith reported that only he and two other officers were on duty that Christmas afternoon at the police station (then in the old post office), when someone opened the front door shortly after 2 p.m. and shouted, “The Palmer House is on fire!” 

The trio raced along the hotel corridors to get everyone out, and, with the arrival of three firemen, everyone was evacuated successfully.  

A few residents of the hotel were taken to the hospital with minor burns and smoke inhalation. A total of 39 firefighters battled the flames all afternoon and evening, and did not leave until 2:30 the next morning.