For­mer Bond Theatre burns down

Iconic Car­bon­ear build­ing left in pieces af­ter de­ves­tat­ing fire


A fire that de­stroyed the old Bond Theatre in Car­bon­ear April 23 may have been out, but the hus­tle and bus­tle on Wa­ter Street con­tin- ued into the next morn­ing.

Many res­i­dents stopped in front of the charred rem­nants of the iconic build­ing for a fi­nal look at a piece of the town’s his­tory.

The two-storey struc­ture, which, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal his­to­rian Burt Parsons, be­gan con­struc­tion in 1947 and opened in Aug. 6 1948, was the for­mer home to a 350-seat theatre owned by United Mo­tion Pic­ture Corp.

In the late 1970s the theatre shut down and has since been home to a ma­rine sup­ply shop (two own­ers), a fam­ily video store and most re­cently a tro­phy and en­grav­ing store called The Tro­phy Hut.

But now, with the build­ing in a heap on the cor­ner lot of Bond and Wa­ter streets, many res­i­dents be­gan snap­ping pho­tos as a mem­ory of the dev­as­tat­ing event.

The feel­ing in the down­town neigh­bour­hood the next morn­ing was somber, and the smell of soot and burnt wood still lin­gered in the air. Em­bers smoked in the cen­tre of the heap, but the fire was out.

Af­ter a full af­ter­noon and most of the night, fire­fight­ers suc­cess­fully pre­vented the fire from spread­ing, and left in the early morn­ing hours.

All that was left was a pile of wood shards and some white, melted sid­ing. A de­flated hose was still at the scene.

Rapid grow­ing fire

Natalie Austin of Car­bon­ear is part of a six-per­son group who had just signed a lease with owner Bill Shep­pard to rent the property for a co-op­er­a­tive to sell art and other items. She stopped by April 23 to be­gin lay­ing out her new store and no­ticed con­den­sa­tion on the win­dows.

“I just thought there was a pipe bro­ken in­side,” Austin told The Com­pass the next morn­ing. “And I thought, ‘ Oh, not a big deal, we can fix that.’”

She didn’t no­tice the fire un­til she put her key in the door and it didn’t un­lock. Her key twisted from the heat, then she saw the smoke com­ing from the door.

“I just start­ing yelling, ‘fire, fire,’” Austin said.

She made a call to the Car­bon­ear Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment just af­ter 1 p.m. and waited out­side. About 20 fire­fight­ers ar­rived around 1:30 p.m.

“When they pulled up, there was smoke com­ing out of the side (of the build­ing). The fire was in the walls,” Austin ex­plained. “I had this feel­ing it was gone.”

Within an hour, thick smoke blan­keted Wa­ter Street from the old theatre to Rorke store mu­seum. Some businesses closed down and res­i­dents were evac­u­ated from the area.

The fire depart­ment couldn’t save the struc­ture, but spent hours con­tain­ing it.

The smell and sight of smoke were re­ported as far away as Sal­mon Cove to the north and at least as far as Bris­tol’s Hope to the south.

Two adults and two chil­dren who could not re­turn to their apart­ments were as­sisted by the Cana­dian Red Cross, while sev­eral oth­ers re­ceived as­sis­tance from friends and fam­ily.

Re­ac­tion from owner

Bill Shep­pard sat in his pickup truck at 10 a.m. April 24, only me­tres from what was left of the build­ing.

He was wait­ing for an in­sur­ance ad­juster, but couldn’t fathom the idea that what he con­sid­ered an im­por­tant part of his life would equate to a dol­lar fig­ure.

The ex­pres­sion of sad­ness stayed on his face as he told The Com­pass of the “dev­as­tat­ing loss” from the pre­vi­ous day.

“I started to cry while telling my wife about the fire,” Shep­pard said, tears fill­ing his eyes.

He said he barely got the words out.

The Tro­phy Hut, which opened in the build­ing at the cor­ner of Wa­ter and Bond Streets about a decade ago, had re­cently closed its doors. But the up­stairs still housed antiques, bed­room sets and ap­pli­ances, among other things. Those items were for sale.

Down­stairs still held the equip­ment used to op­er­ate Shep­pard’s busi­ness, in­clud­ing a large and ex­pen­sive en­grav­ing ma­chine. He also stored some per­sonal items there as well.

Shep­pard and sev­eral oth­ers were pack­ing up in­ven­tory be­fore the fire. They went to lunch be­fore Austin ar­rived.

World War II con­nec­tion

The build­ing was a wooden struc­ture that had re­ceived sev­eral ren­o­va­tions through­out the years.

But Burt Parsons, who is a for­mer Her­itage So­ci­ety pres­i­dent, said the busi­ness was not the only his­toric part of the build­ing.

Some of the wood used to build the orig­i­nal theatre came from the Town of Vic­to­ria, when in­tern­ment camps built dur­ing World War II were dis­man­tled.

Parsons could only con­firm some of the wood was used for the bot­tom floor of the theatre, but that it def­i­nitely came from those camps.

Al­though he knew the de­tails be­cause of his own re­search, he had also at­tended the theatre while it was around.

“(The theatre) was the place to go grow­ing up,” Parsons ex­plained. “There was a lot of things go­ing on in Car­bon­ear at that time, and one was

the Bond Theatre.”

Un­clear fu­ture

A for­mer em­ployee with the Town of Car­bon­ear told The Com­pass the plot does not fit the di­men­sions re­quired build on it be­cause of mu­nic­i­pal reg­u­la­tions. The for­mer build­ing was prac­ti­cally on the side­walk.

Shep­pard hasn’t given up hope. He is look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of re­build­ing the struc­ture.

A cause had not been de­ter­mined by dead­line, April 25, but in­ves­ti­ga­tors were on scene go­ing through the rub­ble.

Photo by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

The old Bond Theatre on Wa­ter Street in Car­bon­ear was re­duced to rub­ble in a fire that started around lunchtime Wed­nes­day. Here, fire­fight­ers work to ex­tin­guish the blaze.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/the Com­pass

All that re­mained of the for­mer Bond Theatre in Car­bon­ear April 23, the day af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing fire broke out.

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