Smoke scare at Rowell’s Inn days before opening

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Chester firefighters check out the situation at Rowell’s Inn on Sunday. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday Chester firefighters were called out for a smoke alarm at Rowell’s Inn in Andover, just days before its scheduled opening as a restaurant, bakery and bed and breakfast.

“The owners were lighting a woodstove when a back-draft blew smoke into the building,” Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson said, adding that firefighters ventilated the structure and took air quality readings before leaving.

Owner Christina Smith said the flue was very cold after the subzero temperatures the night before and they could not get a good draft. She also noted that the inn’s smoke detectors are especially sensitive. “But that’s a good thing,” said Smith. There was no damage to the building or its contents and no one was injured.

A back-draft caused smoke to escape from the Vermont Iron Elm stove at the rear of the inn.

The alarm happened just as Smith and her husband Jared were putting the finishing touches on the building in preparation for the final inspections and opening on Wednesday.

The re-opened inn will feature four bedrooms on the second floor, common rooms on the first floor as well as a dining room and a bakery case featuring Christina Smith’s creations. The third floor has several more bedrooms but these will not be accessible until a sprinkler system for them is installed.

The National Register of Historic Places structure was built in 1826 by Edward L. Simon and bought by Frederick Rowell in 1910. It has served as a Post Office (1826 – 1950) and a general store in addition to being a hotel.

In the fall of 2018, the Smiths and their children — Landon, Montana, Dominic and Dakota — began work on bringing back the inn that had fallen into disuse and disrepair.

Wilson told The Telegraph that while January was a slow month for the fire department, February is making up for it with weather-related motor vehicle crashes as well as fire calls.

Last Friday, two calls occurred almost simultaneously. It happened when Wilson was driving to the Chester Fire Station to respond to a chimney fire on Lovers Lane and spotted dark black smoke coming from a chimney of a house on Mountain View off Route 103 South.

Wilson called in what he thought was another chimney fire and headed for Lovers Lane. The Proctorsville Fire Department was called to Mountain View on mutual aid to find a furnace problem. When that was taken care of, those firefighters joined the crew at Lovers Lane to put out that chimney fire.

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