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Basement Fire Spreads, Destroys White Pelican Hotel

Firemen thought they had about extinguished a basement fire in the White Pelican Hotel in Klamath Falls, Ore., before flames got into the air vents and spread through the hotel and to the rooftop.

As flames leaped high above the building, firemen managed to keep the blaze from spreading to other buildings.  Within days, crews dynamited the few standing walls of the building. 

Once described by the Klamath Falls Evening Herald as “Southern Oregon’s most famous hostelry,” the four-story, brick building on the corner of Main and Esplanade had 93 guest rooms, a restaurant, newsstand and barber and smoke shops.  It was built 1911 by the Klamath Development Co. with backing from the Southern Pacific Railroad.  In 1930 Elmer Balsiger opened his Ford dealership in a new building on the former hotel site.  The dealership left in 1980 and the building had other occupants but gradually fell into disrepair.  Snow collapsed part of the roof in 2008 and the building has been an empty shell for most of the past 15 years.

Although a small group of people want to save the Balsiger building, its demolition appears imminent, as soon as the end of this month.

Sources: What Was There: Arts/Humanities Website. Enlighten Ventures, LLC, 2016. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. https://www.facebook.com/WhatWasThere/;  "Snapshot: White Pelican Hotel Remodeled." The Midge: Cultural Newsletter of the Klamath Basin (2016). Print.;   "Hotel Burns in Klamath Falls." Spokesman-Review 22 Oct. 1926 [Spokane, Wash.] : 8. Web. 12 Apr. 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19261022&id=ibFXAAAAIBAJ&sjid=uvMDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6046,2453595&hl=en; Creasey, Andrew. "Egyptian Building May Finally See New Purpose." Herald And News 26 Sept. 2012 [Klamath Falls, Ore.] . Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://www.heraldandnews.com/members/news/frontpage/egyptian-building-may-finally-see-new-purpose/article_52401aa8-07a1-11e2-9690-0019bb2963f4.html

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.