Cause of Confidence Inn fire uncertain

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

No cause has yet been determined for the structure fire that severely burned the barroom at the historic Confidence Inn on Monday morning.

The fire was reported at about 5:30 a.m. by a passing motorist. It was contained by 6:45 a.m., with firefighters able to stop it from burning the connected former restaurant.

The tavern area and restaurant were damaged, but "salvaged," said Brent Berry, Twain Harte Cal Fire Station captain, at the scene.

No one was in the building at the time of the fire.

Fire investigators began looking for a cause Monday, but are expected to take a few days.

Damage was estimated to be $200,000, according to Mike Spear, spokesman for Cal Fire and Tuolumne County Fire Department.

Patricia Clement, owner of the establishment since 1994, said she was "devastated."

"It was my life for 20 years, ya know?" she said. Beyond that, Clement had been a third-generation customer before buying it. Her grandparents and parents bought drinks there.

The inn was established in 1926 in its same location and was the only business remaining in the former Gold Rush hub of Confidence, now with a population of about 50.

The inn once served a thriving gold mining area - one of Tuolumne County's oldest and richest gold producers after the discovery of the Confidence lode in 1853. The Confidence Mine was established by Ben Holliday and reportedly supplied between $3.5 million and $5 million in gold itself, modernly priced, and other mines in the area were also successful.

Despite its name, the Confidence Inn never served as an inn, Clement said. She said in the 1920s, they called it an inn to get their liquor license.

It "had a lot of historical value," she said. The barroom was filled with lots of pictures, of her family and Confidence history.

Luckily, a lot of pictures are still hanging on the wall, her family told her. But she hasn't seen their condition yet.

"I'd like to rebuild the business, but I don't know if it's possible with today's costs," she said.

11907717
The Union Democrat
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