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Building was a part of community's history
Times photo: Brenda Steurer A Monroe firefighter continues extinguishing embers above the Silver Dollar Saloon Monday in Blanchardville, more than six hours after the fire was reported.
MONROE - By mid-morning Monday, most of Blanchardville's citizens had heard about the fire at the Ryan Hotel on South Main Street, which took the lives of four people. It also has taken a large part of their personal, family and community history.

Many of them, like Dan Swiggum, waited on the snowy sidewalk across the street, in front of the Viking Cafe, waiting for news, for direction on what to do next.

Firefighters were still standing watch over the icy, burned-out building as investigators searched for clues for the cause of Lafayette's County's worst fire-related tragedy in the past 20 years.

Daniel Hardekopf, 45; Jelayne L. Hughes, 44; Cody D. Olson, 23; and Brian K. Monte, 34, died as a result of the fire, which destroyed the Silver Dollar Saloon, a century-old, three-story hotel building at the corner of South Main Street and Elm.

The community still refers to the hotel as the Ryan Hotel, which has been owned by members of the Patrick Ryan, Sr. family from 1896 to about 1964.

Swiggum had visited the Silver Dollar Saloon a few times, which was located on the first floor of "our hotel," he said.

"It was a small, nice, neighborhood kind of bar," he said.

Bob Larson, 88, a lifelong resident of the community, was greeting people by name as they passed by.

"My grandfather rented a room way in the back corner on the second floor, after his wife died of influenza," he said.

As an adult, Larson had worked decorating and wallpapering the upper levels of the hotel.

Diana Van Matre, operator of the Viking Cafe, opened up at 5:15 a.m. Monday at the request of her cook, a daughter-in-law of one of the firefighters battling the nearby blaze.

Her own tenants called her at about 3:30 a.m. to let her know about the fire diagonally across the intersection from her cafe.

When she arrived, the roof of the old hotel was still on fire, she said.

"It's the biggest building in town," she added.

Van Matre set up a self-service station, with coffee and hot cocoa as well as donuts from Burreson's Food Center, for the firefighters.

Margarette Hanson said she was up at 3:10 a.m. but hadn't heard the fire whistle. She lived in the Ryan Hotel before marrying her husband Gaylord 16 years ago.

"It's all one apartment on the second floor," she said. Previous owners had taken all the individual rooms and joined them into one living quarters, she said.

"Upstairs, (third floor) is still single rooms, and the doors had the original numbers on them," she added. The hardwood floors were also still intact, she said.