Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Fire destroys country club built in 1840s



By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

AURORA, Ind. - Fire swept through the Dearborn Country Club early Monday, destroying a building that dated to the 1840s and was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

No one was injured, authorities said.

The main building at 170 Country Club Road, on a hill overlooking downtown Aurora and the Ohio River, was a popular site for wedding receptions, banquets and golf.

A tunnel connected to the basement was used on the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escaping to freedom.

The country club is off Ind. 148, about three miles north of the city's riverfront downtown. The burned building contained the dining hall and bar, and was not connected to the club's golf shop.

"The building is completely destroyed," Aurora Fire Lt. Kevin Turner said. "It was a fairly historical building."

It was not immediately known how or where the fire started. Fire officials received a call reporting smoke at the closed club at 3:44 a.m.

Firefighters from three departments needed 21/2 hours to extinguish the blaze, Turner said. The Indiana state fire marshal continues to investigate.

The building was constructed in the 1840s by the Wymond family, according to local historians.

"They were people from Aurora," Margaret Pitts of the Dearborn County Historical Society said Monday. "There is a trapdoor that goes to a secret room used on the Underground Railroad."

In the mid-1920s, the farmhouse was bought by a group of local businessmen, who opened it as a country club.

"The original rooms of the first house were still there," Pitts said. "But of course, it's been added on to many times." Firefighters were hampered by the remoteness of the building, at the end of a half-mile-long driveway.

The club was owned by its 100-plus members, who last summer bought out the nonmember stockholders, said Carl Petty, a member who served as president of the board in 1989.

"I hate to see it because it had a great deal of history to it," said Petty, who owns Aurora Lumber Co.

"It's a terrible loss," said member Jack Tandy, who owns Tandy Men's Wear in Aurora. He said he played golf there eight to 10 times a year and had dined there recently.

This month's scheduled events at the club included a Valentine's Day dinner and a wine-tasting.

E-mail toneill@enquirer.com




TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Schott sues in snit over seats
Letter details baseball's promises to Schott
Audit says Cincinnati wasted much of empowerment grant
Taft wants to boost spending 10 percent
Who wins, who loses in Taft budget
Health Alliance to cut Aetna patients

COLUMBIA DISASTER
Complete Columbia coverage at Cincinnati.com
Peace Bell rings for astronauts
Students ponder shuttle disaster, ask why

CLIFF RADEL COLUMN
Evil wins when we don't talk

AROUND THE TRISTATE
Tax issues on special ballots today
GE grant to boost math in 2 schools
Tristate A.M. Report
Good News: Conflict put her close to God
Hometown Heroes: Howell quick to lend a hand
Obituary: Albert Neman loved learning
You Asked For It
Anderson: Send us your questions

BUTLER COUNTY
Butler sheriff tightens property room
Hearing on Fox interchange
Bird-shooting site protested

WARREN COUNTY
Third charged after raid on crack house

OHIO
Bicentennial Moment: WWI brought out anti-German sentiment

KENTUCKY
Teen deaths prompt forum on heroin use
New crown for Devou Park's hill
Illegal ID ring nabbed in Ky., Chandler says
McConnell has bypass surgery
Ky. molester trial requires 100 jury pool
Covington restaurant changes hands
Kenton property valuator retires
Ky. tax plan will include repeals, Patton says

INDIANA
Fire destroys country club built in 1840s