KOC building in Sydney Mines to rise again

Burned-out structure expected to come down Thursday

Published on June 26, 2014
TC Media - Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY MINES —  The Knight of Columbus building on View Street that was devastated by fire Tuesday night will be demolished Thursday.

"We’ll have to finalize the business part of it with the insurance company," said Hector DiPersio, financial secretary of the KOC Columbian Club that owned and operated the building. "Once that is done, the members will get together and decide what we are going to do. I expect that a new building will go up on the property; I'd be supportative of that."

Security will be on site until the building is completely taken down and the debris removed.

"It’s a big loss to the community, the big dances started there in the 1970s and 80s, we  had all the big bands like Sam Moon play there," he said. "We used to have the biggest dances in Cape Breton on a Thursday night. People met, got married at the KOC,  had their anniversaries there, a lot of people have a long attachment to the place,"

The building was loaned out to a lot of organizations for  functions.

"We have an obligation to our own members, but we also have an obligation to the community, which we look at very seriously."

At this time the fire has been deemed as not supicious by the fire marshall's office. The investigation into its cause is continuing.

Sydney Mines Deputy Fire Chief John MacPherson said the building was fully engaged when the fire department arrived.

"We had roughly 45 firefighters on scene, including Florence and North Sydney," MacPherson said. "The fire started at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. We were there until  4 a.m. (Wednesday). Some of our guys stayed right through to 7 a.m."

According to MacPherson, the bartender, who was the only person in the building at the time, made it out safely.

"When we first got here the fire was in the newer part of the building. We got a bit of their memorabilia out, plaques and some old record books," he said. "Once it got to the older part, there were no fire stops and the fire travelled through to the attic. There were double ceilings in the hall portion, a grid ceiling and above that a Gyprock ceiling."

"Being a wide-open space with lots of fire load, it was challenging."Firefighters had eight different waterlines on the fire at different times.

Pauline Robertson has lived on View Street all her life.

"I heard the fire trucks going up the street. I couldn't smell any smoke, but apparently it was burning out of the back," she said. "I used to play up there at one time, that was in the 1950s. There used to be a lot of dances and parties, but as the years went by, it got a lot quieter."

Liam MacNeil, a firefighter with the Department of Natural Resources in Baddeck,  has lived on View Street the past 17 years.

"When I walked up the street I noticed smoke coming from the eaves and the back section. There was thick smoke,  but I couldn't see flames," MacNeil said. "It created a lot of activity on the street, people wanting to see the firemen at work."

MacNeil grew up in Sydney Mines and recalls a time when the KOC was the hot spot in town.

Terry Boutilier and his wife Colleen had their wedding reception at the KOC.

"We've lived on View Street for over 30 years," he said. "There was more traffic on the street the past few days than in years."

Boutilier said it is quite a loss for the community.

"I've been at quite a few functions at the KOC, it's been important to the community."