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Future of Archer House still uncertain eight months after fire

Many Carls will vaguely recall the chilly November afternoon that marked the downfall of Northfield’s historic Archer House River Inn, which, along with beloved restaurants Chapati and Smoqehouse, was forced to close for the foreseeable future due to severe structural damages as a result of an accidental fire in the kitchens of Smoqehouse. 

The Archer House River Inn has stood as an iconic landmark in historic downtown Northfield since its opening in 1877. The Inn’s once-impressive facade shows the destructive path of the fire, with the roof caved in over Smoqehouse, leaving several guest rooms visibly exposed—even now, eight months after the tragic accident.

The November 12 fire blazed through the night, travelling internally through the walls and thus escaping detection in some areas until significant damage had already been inflicted. Reports have stated that firefighters used as much as two million gallons of water during the 24 hours that the fire burned. 

With repairs still not yet underway, many in the community are wondering what the future of the Inn holds. Paper Petalum, a shop formerly in Archer House, has already relocated; Chapati is reportedly searching for a new location as well. 

Original reports characterized the Inn as “a total loss,” but more recent evidence suggests it might be possible to salvage the iconic building. The owners of the Inn have shared concerns that the ongoing insurance investigation is leaving the building vulnerable to further water damage and is potentially harming any chance of restoring the historic site. While repairs are delayed, the building continues to deteriorate visibly. 

According to Brett Reese, an official representing the Inn, it is still uncertain whether the Archer House can even be salvaged, given the extensive damage done to the building and lack of communication with the Inn’s insurance company. Reese shares the frustration and disappointment brought by the continued setbacks in restoration. The longer the building is exposed to the elements, he explained, the less likely it is that a full restoration will be feasible. 

The damage varies in different parts of the building. Areas near Smoqehouse and on the upper levels suffered the worst damage, with near-total destruction; other parts of the building that remained more intact still suffered extensive smoke damage and water damage, along with continued exposure to the elements. Reese also shared that the movement of heavy machinery through the building during the investigation might have inflicted further damage.  

The owners of Archer House said that they are not able to make a decision regarding the future of the historic building until insurance claims are processed and the building is fully assessed for damage. Only then will they begin “in earnest the process of assessing future options for the site,” said the owners. This could include restoration, replacement or redevelopment. 

In the event that the building is unable to be salvaged and is torn down, representatives of the Inn have shared tentative plans to ensure that a new building in the same space would carry the memory of Archer House with similar architectural charm. 

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