f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Colony Club Fire 1959

Posted Monday, August 2, 2010, at 7:30 AM

G.D. Fronabarger shot this picture of the fire that destroyed the Colony Club between McClure and East Cape Girardeau, Ill. on June 8, 1959. The story was published in the Southeast Missourian that afternoon.

Fire Destroys Colony Club; Owner Jumps to Safety

Southern Illinois' most plush nightspot, the Colony Club, located 4 miles east of Cape Girardeau at the junction of Highways 146 and 3, was destroyed by fire thought to have originated in the kitchen about 6 a.m. today. The loss to the main buildings housing the dining room, and adjacent buildings was estimated to be over $150,000 by observers. Damaged was reported to be partly covered by insurance.

The establishment was jointly owned by John Wilson of McClure and Cape Girardeau and Miles Hill of McClure.

Mr. Wilson said that he was asleep in the upstairs apartment of the building when he heard some youths calling to him. The boys, whose names were not learned, told Mr. Wilson that as they came around the curve on Highway 3 to the north, they could see the flames on the back porch to the rear of the building, facing west. Mr. Wilson escaped with only the clothes he was wearing by jumping out the window.

An attempt was made to control the blaze on the porch and the kitchen next to it, but the flames spread rapidly through the frame building.

Possibly due to the direction of the wind, the main dining room in which the dance floor was located was destroyed first, the flames then spreading back to the bar and club room, which were the last to burn. The bar was located directly in front of the kitchen, Very few pieces of the elaborate furnishings were gotten out of the building.

A fire truck from McClure and one from Thebes went to the scene, but due to the lack of a water supply were unable to be of much help. A large tank near the building for water storage in case of emergency was apparently not put to use. Due to a city ordinance and state rules which prohibits it doing so, the Cape Girardeau fire department did not go to the scene.

Several Illinois State Patrolmen were on hand to direct the large flow of traffic which is also hampered from the intersection to Cape Girardeau because of highway construction work now underway.

The planned program for the widening of the highway includes a strip which was formerly part of the Colony Club parkway.

Defective wiring in the kitchen is a probable cause of the fire, it was reported.

From Out of the Past:

June 5, 1941

Armed with warrants of search and seizure, Constable John Brown and three deputies of Elco Township in Alexander County, Ill., seize gambling devices in raids at four popular night clubs: Colony Club, Villa, Purple Crackle and Curve Inn.

April 26, 1944

Mississippi reaches stage of 37.4 feet at Cape Girardeau; Missouri River is also rising in Central Missouri and flooding Illinois River is fast moving toward its crest at Mississippi confluence; Ohio River is expected to reach crest of around 52.2 feet at Cairo Saturday; because of high water, Frisco train service from St. Louis to Cape Girardeau is suspended; businesses along Main Street here continue to elevate their merchandise; evacuation continues in Illinois; equipment at Villa Club at McClure and at Colony Club is moved to higher ground.

June 22, 1956

Illinois state police say that a dice table, a roulette wheel and four slot machines were seized in a raid yesterday afternoon at the Colony Club at the junction of highways 3 and 146; the gambling equipment was taken to the courthouse in Cairo, Ill., and charges of possession of gaming equipment will be filed as soon as the identity of the owner is established.

July 5, 1957

The Colony Club building on Illinois Highway 3 near the intersection of Highway 146 was damaged last night when lightning twice struck electrical wiring in the structure.

June 8, 1959

Southern Illinois' most plush nightspot, the Colony Club, four miles east of Cape Girardeau at the junctions of highways 146 and 3, is destroyed by fire thought to have originated in the kitchen at about 6 a.m.; the establishment was jointly owned by John Wilson of McClure, Ill., and Cape Girardeau, and Miles Hill of McClure.

June 14, 1959

No definite plans have been made for the use of the site where the Colony Club formerly stood at the junction of Illinois highways 146 and 3, says co-owner John A. Wilson of Cape Girardeau and McClure, Ill.; the night club was destroyed by fire Monday morning.


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  • Is thiz the same location where the Hushpuppy/Hideaway bar was at? Would love to see more pictures of the old clubs in the East Cape area.

    -- Posted by travellin man on Mon, Aug 2, 2010, at 9:33 AM
  • The Colony Club that I remember was on 146 between East Cape and Route 3, closer to Route 3. This was after this one burned, well after...

    -- Posted by bobby62914 on Mon, Aug 2, 2010, at 9:44 AM
    Fred Lynch

    This just in:

    June 16, 1962

    Musicians Lose to Illinois Thieves

    A group of musicians who played at the New Colony Club Friday night reported to police early today that an electric guitar, amplifier and speaker were stolen from their car while parked at the club's parking lot. Louis Hobbs, 729 South Fountain, called police and gave the description of a suspect car. The information was relayed to Illinois authorities.

  • Was there also a place called the Flying Saucer over there? I wonder whatever happend to that. I like your old photos, by the way.

    -- Posted by Make no mistake about it on Mon, Aug 2, 2010, at 7:33 PM
    Fred Lynch

    This just in:

    Nov. 9, 1953

    Southeast Missourian

    McClure, Ill. --Five masked men, armed with pistols and a submachine gun, held up the Flying Saucer night club early this morning in McClure. They carried away a steel safe and four or five fifths of whisky. The safe contained a large amount of money, according to owner F.D. "Doc" Russell. It was estimated that about $10,000 in checks and cash were in the safe.

    The men entered the establishment at 1:50 a.m., it was reported. The outside lights were off and the window shades were drawn, Mr. Russell said. He was asleep in a back room at the time and did not wake up while the gunmen were present. They stayed about 15 minutes.

    They made the four customers who were present sit on bar stools with their hands on the bar. The bartender, Mrs. Robert Arnold, was forced to do likewise. Money and other possessions were taken from the patrons. Mr. Russell said $90 was taken from Harold "Rinky" Nance. Another customer was slugged on the head with a pistol when he refused to keep quiet. His name was not available.

    The gunmen, quick and thorough and apparently having a good knowledge of the establishment, also took $150 from the cash register, leaving 20 nickels, Mr. Russell related. They spoke only when necessary to issue a command, it was reported.

    Descriptions by the patrons were confused as to the appearance of the thugs. Their clothing was "just like anybody else" wears, Mr. Russell said.

    Telephone wires were cut before the gang entered the place. After the gunmen left, Nance spliced the wires. Russell called the Illinois state police.

    (The Dec. 1, 1953 edition reported the safe was found in a dry creek bed. The box with its door blasted off was found by a hunter near Lyrle School, three miles east of Reynoldsville.)

    A public auction ad published in 1982 noted the sale would take place at the former Flying Saucer parking lot in McClure.

  • Is there anyone from 1959 who believes this fire was an accident?

    New residents should ask about the history of Southern Illinois, and the clubs of East .Cape/McClure and Cairo.

    -- Posted by semowasp on Tue, Aug 3, 2010, at 5:39 PM
  • Have you found any photos of the club interior from this time, the description make it sound right fancy !!

    -- Posted by jacksonjazzman on Thu, Aug 5, 2010, at 12:47 PM
  • The Hideaway rocked! Student Thursday nights were unreal!

    And the cape girls were always very, very, very kind to us Champaign IL rock bands. Loved playing there in the mid 80s with my band MAXX.

    Got a kick out of the constant battles with the crackle. Crackle was an ok joint, but Jim paid much better and took care of us touring acts much better.

    -- Posted by keithwah on Sun, Dec 26, 2010, at 5:00 AM
  • Good Vibes!

    -- Posted by bobby62914 on Wed, Dec 29, 2010, at 12:11 AM
  • Awesome article and photo, I would love to see more...I would Pay to see more like these! : )

    -- Posted by riverboatrick on Sat, Feb 2, 2013, at 7:18 AM