Stamford, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A six-alarm fire destroys the historic seven-story Rexmere Hotel building with multiple fire departments across three counties responding.
Pedro DelRosario lives across the street from the old hotel building; he said his wife woke him up when the first flames began to show.
"My wife was up already, and she woke me up and said, 'Pap, the Rexmere is on fire," DelRosario said.
The fire engulfed the 100-year-old wooden building once known as 'The Queen of the Catskills' in less than half an hour.
The building was empty when the fire started, but two caretakers did live in the building.
More than 300 firefighters were dispatched to the scene and it took more than five hours to put out most of the flames.
Patti Nelson watched as her historic neighbor crumbled to the ground.
"Such an important peace of history just vanished today," Nelson said.
Fire crews came from across Delaware County, and also from Otsego, Greene, and Schoharie County.
Stamford Fire Chief A.J. Vamosy said the massive fire was the worst he'd ever seen.
"We've always talked about the what ifs," Vamosy said. "If this ever did happen, and here it is today."
Vamosy said what made it even worse was watching a century of the Catskill's past vanish in hours.
"Never thought in a million years I'd have to do this," Vamosy said. "This building has so much history here."
The building was almost about to be sold by the non-profit Catskill Mountains Educational Center (CMEC) to a new owner who had hoped to restore the building to its former glory.
In a lucky turn of events, a permanent art collection which had been on display in the Rexmere was moved out on March 15.
Christine Becker, a board member for CMEC, said only one major piece of artwork had been left at the request of the new buyer.
"Except for one piece, 'The Lady in the Blue Hat,' who always greeted everyone," Becker said. "Unfortunately she is gone now, she went with the building."
Becker and the entire board are left to pick up the pieces to try and replace the irreplaceable.
CMEC released this statement:
"The building was a centerpiece for the Village of Stamford and our surrounding area since 1898. Once referred to as the Queen of the Catskills, it was one of the last bastions of the golden era of the early and mid 20th century....Our board will work with Fire investigators in the days ahead to determine a possible cause."
The statement added they were very thankful for the efforts of so many fire departments to try and save the historic site.
At least 10 departments responded with more than 300 firefighters on scene.
The investigation into the cause of the fire is likely to take days, according to the Stamford fire chief.