SKYKOMISH, Wash. -- Police say an early morning fire that destroyed the historic Whistling Post Tavern in Skykomish was set to cover up a burglary.
Fire crews were dispatched to the landmark tavern around 4 a.m. Tuesday.
The flames quickly tore through the 1903 building. Shortly after firefighters arrived, the roof of the tavern caved in, taking with it more than 100 years of history and railroad memorabilia.
"It's been an ongoing business since 1903," said owner Charlie Brown. "Never closed. It survived prohibition as a card room and dance hall. My wife and I are only the fourth owners of that business in 109 years."
While a residence was attached to back of the tavern, no one was inside when the fire started. One firefighter sustained burn injuries to his hand. He was transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment of second and third degree burns.
Several fire agencies from the surrounding areas worked together to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby buildings, such as a hotel adjacent to the tavern. Within hours the fire was out and crews were putting out remaining hot spots.
Brown said he and his wife had locked up the Whistling Post Tavern Monday night, but firefighters said when they arrived on the scene Tuesday morning, the doors were unlocked and open.
Investigators discovered the phone lines had been cut and money was stolen from the ATM located inside the building.
The suspect(s) used a saw to cut the front, side, and top of the ATM.
Neighbors reported hearing a car with loud exhaust leaving the area just before the fire was reported. The same neighbors said that a week ago a car with the same sounding muffler had been seen cruising the area. The vehicle was described as a lowered, black coupe, possibly a Honda, occupied by two white males in their 20s.
If you have with information about the arson and burglary you are asked to contact the King County Sheriff's Office Fire/Arson Investigation Unit at (206) 296-6670 or the Arson Alarm Foundations, Fire Stoppers tip line at (800) 55-ARSON. Calls will remain anonymous.
Arson Alarm Foundation is offering a reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Owners will rebuild
The Whistling Post Tavern was one of 11 landmark buildings along the four-block long Skykomish Historic Commercial District, dating back to the late 1800s. Railroad workers would hang out in the saloon, which was originally named The Olympian and later called The Whistling Post Tavern after a fire destroyed most of the district in 1904.
The spot was popular among residents and skiers headed up to Stevens Pass to grab a drink or a bite to eat.
"It's a pretty heavy hit," said Ritchie. "There's only a few businesses in Skykomish and this is one of those that everybody gravitated to. The owners are real nice people. It was just a great, fun place to be."
"It's one of only two real gathering places in Skykomish and we're going to miss it a lot."
The owners said they will likely rebuild the tavern - with a little help. But they say they are mourning the loss of the railroad memorabilia and historic photos, which were irreplaceable.
KING 5's Liza Javier and Natasha Ryan contributed to this report.