The fire that destroyed the Whistling Post Tavern in Skykomish on Tuesday morning was started at the east side of the Whistling Post Tavern, where an ATM had been opened and $3,300 was missing, investigators said.
King County investigators say the blaze that destroyed a landmark watering hole in Skykomish on Tuesday was set to cover up a burglary.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West said investigators have determined that the fire was started at the east side of the Whistling Post Tavern, where an ATM had been opened and $3,300 was missing.
“The burglars used a saw to cut off the front, top and sides of the ATM and access the cash box,” West said.
A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible, West said.
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Investigators say a person who lives near the tavern heard the sound of what was described as a distinctive car shortly before the blaze was discovered around 4 a.m.
West said several Skykomish residents reported seeing and hearing a lowered black Honda coupe with “loud pipes” over the past week. Those “loud pipes” were what the tavern’s neighbor reported hearing Tuesday morning, West said.
Residents reported seeing two males in the car on previous sightings, West said.
Skykomish fire Capt. Mike Janasz said firefighters responding to the flames could do little to save the wood building but were immediately suspicious when they found the door open.
One firefighter who suffered from smoke inhalation and a burn to his hand was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Janasz said. He was listed in satisfactory condition later Tuesday.
The Whistling Post was one of 11 landmark buildings in Skykomish’s Historic Commercial District.
The tavern, originally named The Olympian, was first built in the late 1800s and drew railroad workers from the Great Northern Railroad. Brian Thompson renamed the tavern the Whistling Post when he owned it between 1934 and 1968. A “whistling post” is a railroad marker indicating where the engineer should blow his whistle as the train approaches a crossing or siding.
Theora Ryder and her husband, Charlie Brown, bought the business more than 30 years ago, according to their son, Blaine Brown, who worked at the family business several days a week. He said they are only the fourth owners of a business that has survived more than 100 years.
The tavern survived Prohibition as a card room and dance hall, Charlie Brown told KING5. “It’s basically one of the oldest (businesses) in town and one of the ones that was always open,” Blaine Brown said. “People have always gathered here, and there’s a good amount of locals who come in to talk about town gossip and politics.”
His parents will likely rebuild the tavern, but much of the railroad memorabilia and other historic items that were on display inside is irreplaceable, Charlie Brown said.
“It’s an idiotic thing to do,” Charlie Brown told KOMO-TV. “I mean, take the money and run. We can replace that but we can’t replace some of the history in this building.”
The $10,000 reward is being offered by the Arson Alarm Foundation.
Anyone with information about the burglary and arson is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 206-296-6670, or the Arson Alarm Foundation’s Fire Stoppers tip line at 800-55-ARSON. Callers may remain anonymous.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information from Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press is included in this report.