Two close fire calls within 15 months unsettling for Fourth Street business owners

Jeff Fitzsimmons, co-owner of Fitz’s on 4th, sets a table for a party of 10 as he prepares to reopen the restaurant Saturday. Fitzsimmons said Friday night’s fire next door at the Hotel Elkton caused no damage to his restaurant. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
Posted: Dec. 13, 2014 9:24 pm Updated: Dec. 28, 2014 12:15 am

Staff Writer | 217-221-3378 | @EHusarWHIG

QUINCY -- Don't be surprised if Jeff and Vickie Fitzsimmons get a little jumpy whenever they hear a firetruck's wailing siren in the distance.

They've had a few too many close calls lately.

On Sept. 6, 2013, for example, the Fitzsimmonses -- owners of Fitz's on 4th at 129 S. Fourth -- were alarmed to learn the historic Newcomb Hotel was suddenly ablaze a half-block north of their business. The towering building on the corner of Fourth and Maine was destroyed in one of the most dramatic fires in Quincy's history.

It was one of the scariest moments the couple can recall. Then came Friday when the four-story Hotel Elkton caught fire immediately south of their restaurant/bar.

"It was one of those ‘Here we go again' moments," Vickie said in an interview Saturday as she described being confronted by a second major fire on the same block within a 15-month period.

"I feel like a cat with nine lives," she said.

Large flames poured from a fourth-floor window of the Hotel Elkton as the Fitzsimmonses shut down their business Friday evening. Luckily, firefighters got the blaze under control before it could cause any harm to the couple's circa-1879 brick structure.

"The flames were so close to our building," Vickie said. "I never thought I'd be on a first-name basis with people from Ameren and the Fire Department."

Jeff Fitzsimmons said he and his wife feel lucky that their nearly 5-year-old business escaped damage despite being so close to both fires.

"We're charmed, I guess," he said. "I've never been involved in a fire personally, so to have two fires within a year on both sides of us is a little unnerving."

A third major fire occurred in that block some years ago. It was immediately north of Fitz's on 4th in a structure that formerly housed Port's Place, which subsequently relocated to its current home on Jersey.