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Fire Destroys 1880 Grindstone House

Fire claimed another notable house in the Thousand Islands, this time on the north shore of Grindstone Island. A call was placed on VHF Channel 16 to the US Coast Guard, by an alert sailor anchored near Camelot Island, at 10:30 pm on Friday, August 31. The call described a burning structure on Grindstone Island and was monitored by Clayton Fire and Rescue. This gave them a brief head start to prepare before the formal dispatch was announced.

The response was led by the Clayton Fire and Rescue (“Last Chance” captained by Jerod Wagoner and Dick Withington’s “STORMY”) and TIERS (Thousand Island Emergency Rescue Service), with assists from fire departments from Gananoque, Wellesley Island, and Alexandria Bay, and involved roughly 40 personnel.

Fire Grindstone Island

Fire destroyed an 1880 cottage on the North side of Grindstone Island during Labor Day Weekend.

The fire departments departed in the wee hours of Saturday morning, but Last Chance captained by Justin Taylor had to return to fight a “re-kindle” after daybreak. The fire department left the smoldering house again near 10:00 am, to prepare for other emergencies that could occur on the Labor Day weekend. However, they left their hoses in place, since rising southwest winds were likely to re-kindle the remaining structure later in the day. They did indeed return on several occasions and a contractor was called to raze the remains of the burning house in the afternoon.smoldering remains

The water’s edge on the north shore of Grindstone is not the original location of the house, having been built in 1880, in the interior of the island by the Taylor family. According to David Taylor, in the 1950’s, the original home was cut in half and moved to the shore using logs for rolling and 5 tractors for pulling. Jeff STaples Grindstone Fire

Over the years, the house had been expanded and renovated and was undergoing floor refinishing work at the time, leading up to the fire. They say, “a house is not a home”, but for this Taylor family summer home, at least a big piece of their home is missing today.

Fire, often with its diabolical companion, wind, is a well-known menace to life in the Thousand Islands. Destruction by fire has been the fate of many Thousand Islands structures including, countless cottages, estates, castles and many of the grand hotels from the Gilded Age (New Frontenac, Thousand Island Park Hotel, Columbian Hotel, and Pullman House). The fire in 2014, that destroyed “The Guzzle”, the volunteer fire department, post office and other concerns in Thousand Island Park reminds us that fire is a present danger, and not only a historical risk. It is a good idea for islanders to consider fire risks in everything they do. For more information on fires in the Thousand Islands, see past articles in Thousand Islands Life:


Past Fire Articles in TI Life

Fire...Gone in 5 Minutes

Claytons Historic Island Hotels

TI Park...Then and Now

By Dane Zabriskie

Like many of us, Dane was shaped by his family, education, profession, and family, as well as the St. Lawrence River, where he has summered annually for more than 45 years.

Editor’s note: Dane is one of our Proof Readers and thus spends several hours each month checking out our articles.  We appreciate the time and thank him!

Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Deane Parkhurst
Comment by: Deane Parkhurst
Left at: 7:16 AM Monday, September 17, 2018
So sad to hear of another grand old home destroyed by fire. My Grandmother's cottage on T I Park, like most, was built entirely of wood with varnished walls and ceilings. Kerosene was widely used back then for hot water, cooking and heat. Kerosene and old varnished wood; not a good combination and one that claimed many cottages throughout the Thousand Islands over the years. .