It was the winter of 1976, and in addition to Bahrs, the Alpine Manor and Sonny and Evelyn Vaughan’s Stowaway Hotel on the corner of Highland Avenue and Portland road were two of the most popular restaurants in the borough. Situated by the Highlands Sea Bright Bridge, the two stately hotels were landmarks in the borough until the late night fire that completely destroyed the Alpine Manor. The story in The Courier showed the cooperative work of the volunteers from Highlands and the surrounding towns that prevented a far more serious fire. The Alpine Manor had been sold three years earlier by the Giarmita family, who had made it one of the finest restaurants in a borough filled with fine restaurants. This is the story I wrote for the Courier in February, 1976.
HIGHLANDS – Still smoldering late yesterday were the ashes of the Alpine Manor, Route 36, a Bayshore landmark since it was built in on the hill beneath the Twin Lights.
Patrolman David Gilson, fire investigator for the police department, said firemen would probably be on the scene all last night as small fires continued to flare up in the rubble that remains of the three-story frame structure.
Patrolman Gilson said the blaze, believed to have started In a first-floor dining room at the north corner of the building, broke out shortly before the alarm was turned in at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. The fire burned fiercely all night, creating huge clouds of smoke that hampered efforts of firemen from here, Atlantic Highlands, Middletown, Sea Bright, and Monmouth Beach.
“The peak of the fire came at about 1 am. The flames and smoke were going up 100 feet into the air,” the police officer said.
Nine known residents of the building, which provided rooms for transients and welfare recipients, were evacuated, Patrolman Gilson reported. “We’re pretty sure that’s all, but you never know, ” the fire investigator commented. He said that efforts were still being made to compile a list of all those known to have been resident in the building at the time of the fire. A final list has not yet been made, he said.
John Vlahos, who bought the 50 room hotel three years ago and lived in an upper floor apartment, was in New York City at the time the fire broke out, Patrolman Gilson went on. The hotel owner was out of town again yesterday, seeking advice of his attorney and Insurance agent. The dining room, bar and most of the hotel’s guest rooms had been closed for some time, with only a number of upper floor rooms and apartments occupied, Patrolman Gilson explained.
Five persons, including a special officer on duty at the scene, were taken to Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, treated for smoke inhalation and released. As the fight against the fire progressed through the night, two firemen were treated at the hospital for minor cuts and bruises, he said. Assisting at the scene were the Highlands, Atlantic Highlands, Sea Bright, Monmouth Beach, and Middletown First Aid Squads. Patrolman Gilson said the true value of the fire loss cannot be determined until the ruins cool enough so a further investigation can be made, but he called the building a “total loss” and estimated the damage as “in six figures."
Patrolman Gilson praised the efficiency of the mutual aid arrangement among area fire departments which brought badly needed out of town equipment to the scene promptly Saturday night under the agreement two aerial trucks were supplied by Atlantic Highlands and Belford. As well as additional apparatus from Sea Bright, Middletown, Monmouth Beach, and Atlantic Highlands. The police fire investigator also praised the fight against the fire as a “well organized” operation directed by Chief George Connell and commended the actions of County Fire Marshal Walter Holtz and his assistant Frederick A. Leggett who took overall control. Patrolman Gilson said he will direct an intensive investigation of the causes of the blaze as soon as the fire is completely out and the rubble cools down.
The following article was originally posted on Muriel Smith's website, Veni Vidi Scripto. If you are interested in reading more about local history and current events, visit Veni Vidi Scripto.