Hearts are breaking in South Lyon today.
Early this morning, a fire broke out in the fabled South Lyon Hotel, the most recognizable building and business in the area. The fire appears to have been extensive: the second floor sustained a roof collapse, and the first floor considerable water damage, according to news reports.
It’s sad, sad news for South Lyon.
Most people in South Lyon are probably feeling like they lost their best friend today, and with good reason. The South Lyon Hotel was the epicenter of the area’s entertainment scene; in addition, it was always the finest community member and booster you could ask for, hosting community events and fundraisers for nonprofit organizations and people in need.
The hotel was nearly 150 years old. Built in 1867, it was used not as a hotel, but as a sports bar for as long as I can remember. Legend has it that the building is also haunted.
When I moved from my position as a reporter at the Livingston County Press to take the helm of the South Lyon Herald in 1993, the very first person I met was Paul Baker, the owner of the South Lyon Hotel at the time.
Though I was excited about being a newspaper editor, I was homesick for my old paper in Howell. Then Baker, an energetic force of nature, burst into my office to introduce himself, welcome me to the community, and present me with my very own South Lyon Hotel T-shirt, which I have cherished for these past 26 years. It was a wonderful gesture, one I appreciated more than Baker ever knew, and I started to feel at home. (Sadly, Baker died of a heart attack in 2005 at the age of 56.)
But things changed, and I ended up being at the Herald for just one year, after which I moved back to take the editorship of the Livingston County Press in Howell. But so much about that first year of being an editor revolves around the South Lyon Hotel.
Those of you who’ve frequented the place understand. Those of you not so lucky have to trust me on this: Whether one wanted food or drink or company or fun — and especially if it was all four — the South Lyon Hotel was there to welcome you, arms wide open.
The staff of the South Lyon Herald made really good use of the place. And when the longest-serving employee of the South Lyon Herald and HomeTown Newspapers retired, we threw a great party for her on the hotel’s second floor.
It was on that second floor that fire broke out at about 2 a.m. today, according to news reports.
As I write this, I don’t know what the future holds for the South Lyon Hotel, whether it is damaged beyond repair, or whether it can rise from the ashes.
All I can do is offer my condolences to the South Lyon community.