March 28, 2015 at 12:26 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Blaze destroys hotel, homes on Fire Island

The Grove Hotel, Fire Island, New York, gay news. Washington Blade

The Grove Hotel on Fire Island, N.Y., in August 2013. A fire destroyed the iconic structure and several adjacent homes on March 27, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A fire destroyed a hotel and several adjacent structures on New York’s Fire Island on Friday.

The Fire Island News reported the fire that completely engulfed the Grove Hotel in Cherry Grove was first reported around 1:30 a.m. Dozens of firefighters from the gay resort community and other fire departments on Fire Island and adjacent Long Island contained the blaze about five hours later.

The Fire Island News reported the fire destroyed the Grove Hotel and Holly House, an adjacent structure with six small apartments in which the Fire Island Artist Residency for aspiring LGBT artists was located. Craig Williams, assistant chief of the Cherry Grove Fire Department, told Newsday the blaze also gutted two vacant homes.

The Associated Press reported three firefighters suffered minor injuries while fighting the fire.

The fire did not damage the Ice Palace, a nightclub attached to the Grove Hotel where Liza Minnelli and Lady Gaga have performed in recent years.

“The Grove Hotel has been a gay hotel for over 59 years and has had famous guests like Lady Gaga, Liza Minnelli and countless drag superstars,” wrote Frank Ligouri, owner of the Grove Hotel and the Ice Palace, on the nightclub’s Facebook page. “We are still processing our emotions over this loss but assure the gay community we will rise from these ashes and rebuild.”

Wendy Lewis, a long-time Cherry Grove resident who works at the Grove Hotel, told the Washington Blade on Friday in a short e-mail that she is “just devastated.”

Diane Romano, president of the Cherry Grove Community Association, in an e-mail to her organization’s members expressed relief that nobody was seriously injured during the fire.

“This has been a very sad day for us,” she wrote. “It could have been so much worse if there were people in those hotels.”

Romano expressed optimism the Grove Hotel would rebuild. She also remains hopeful the drag queens who perform at the Ice Palace each summer would return to the stage once it reopens for the season later this year.

“I know that we will rebuild better than before,” she wrote. “The people of Cherry Grove are amazing. The Ice Palace is intact..the pool and the pool deck are in tact and I am sure we will have Porsche, Ariel, Logan and the rest of the gang performing for us very very soon.”

The fire remains under investigation.

Cherry Grove, which was first settled in 1868, is among the oldest LGBT communities in the U.S.

The Cherry Grove Community House, which dates back to 1948, is among the first venues in the country that featured gay-produced shows and performances. The National Park Service in 2013 placed the building onto the National Register of Historic Places with the assistance of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) amid an effort to raise funds for its restoration.

The Fire Island News reported the Grove Hotel was build on the site of the former Duffy’s Hotel, which burned to the ground in 1956.

A blaze damaged several rooms in the Grove Hotel in September 2009 when a utility closet caught fire.

A separate fire destroyed the Pavilion nightclub and several other businesses in Fire Island Pines, a predominantly gay resort community less than a mile east of Cherry Grove, in November 2011.

The structures were later rebuilt.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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