Riverside was a bustling town until the March, 16, 1916 fire that leveled many businesses. Looking at the picture, the rubble in the foreground was the remains of the Occidental Hotel. Across the street and behind the heavy smoke was the remains of Blackwell’s first store in Riverside. He rebuilt it and up and running by fall of 1916, later became Riverside Commercial owned by Lee Franks and is now Detro’s Western Store. The tall building in the center of the photo was the town water tank.

The fire started in the early morning, Lee Frank was sleeping above the office in the store when the alarm went off. I got out by climbing a ladder and my sisters Betty and Nadine Frank who both were employed in the office for Blackwell hurried to the store clad only in there night clothes and they opened the safe and removed the office of all the accounts and files, threw them into some trunks and were carried out up the hill side behind the store and this is where Mr. Blackwell found them in the morning as he had spent the night in Okanogan.

Lee Frank was in the bucket brigade, lots of help working out of the Okanogan River which was still frozen. A strong wind had come up. Lee was on top of the red warehouse (City Park now). The wind coming from the north is all that saved the warehouse. Also lost in the fire was a blacksmith shop, two saloons and a livery stable. One article said a bakery, a harness shop on the west side all burned, on the east side was the odd fellows hall, butcher shop, blacksmith shop and the jail. The hotel was never rebuilt. I don’t know about any of the other businesses.

Riverside was never the bustling town after this because of the fires and the railroad going through, also the boats stopped coming up the river.

On May 10, 1924 Riverside had another big fire started in a cash & carry grocery near the bridge in the early morning, destroyed the grocery store, Charles Blackwell’s home, phone station and the Morris building which had hotel rooms on top all burned. Lee Frank remembered it well, his daughter Leota Frank was born early morning Saturday May 10th. The bridge was closed because of the fire, Dr. Fryer drove to Omak and came up on the east side to Lee Frank’s residence.

Skip to content