ELDRIDGE — David E. “Junior” DelVichio had just started making breakfast for a few customers Thursday morning at Del’s Pub and Eatery when a beer delivery man rushed in to tell him there was a fire in the back of the building.
By the time firefighters arrived a few minutes later at 8:20 a.m., thick black smoke was coming from the rear of the building, Eldridge Fire Chief Tyler Schmidt said.
The fire quickly destroyed the Eldridge landmark.
“It consumed the reception hall fairly quickly,” Schmidt said.
Mark Bixby of DeWitt said he was at a meeting at an insurance office just east of Del’s when he looked out the window toward Del’s and saw black smoke. Bixby said he assumed it was from a diesel truck sitting at the stoplight.
When he looked out the window again a short time later, the smoke was much worse.
“It went quick, no doubt about it,” Bixby said.
Sharon and Mike Cavallo of Eldridge were among the dozens of people watching at the fire scene Thursday morning.
Sharon Cavallo said the bar/restaurant has been a popular spot for many years for receptions, bar patrons and kids looking for a place to hang out after school and have a cheeseburger.
“We’ve been going in there since we were in junior high,” she said.
Mike Cavallo said he was saddened to see the building destroyed.
Schmidt said the structure, built in 1885, was a total loss. He said firefighters had not yet begun to investigate the cause of the fire.
Schmidt said one of his first concerns after arriving on the scene was protecting the Eldridge Post Office, which sits just west of Del’s.
Post Office clerk Lisa Williams said a few windows in the office were cracked by the heat of the fire, but the building suffered no other damage. Williams said the fire kept her from opening the post office until 2 p.m. Thursday, but mail delivery in Eldridge was not affected because the mail carriers operate from Davenport.
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Firefighters from numerous local departments assisted at the scene, including Davenport, Bettendorf, LeClaire, Donahue, Princeton, Long Grove, Walcott and McCausland.
Schmidt said tanker trucks from other departments were brought in because he was concerned about how the amount of water needed to fight the fire would affect the city’s water system.
Local businesses provided food, water and coffee to firefighters working in cold, windy conditions.
“The businesses here react in such a positive way when there is an adverse situation,” said Carolyn Scheibe, executive director of the Eldridge-North Scott Chamber of Commerce.
Scheibe said the bar was a key part of the community.
“It will be definitely be a sad sight to not see Del’s on the corner,” she said.
DelVichio said he had been flooded with calls and text messages of sympathy and support. He said he plans to rebuild at the same location.