When Walton Witzke moved back to Rochester in 1947, he along with his brothers Donald, Harold and Leonard, bought the Town Talk Café from Henri Bakker. They remodeled the small diner into the Town House supper club, adding a barber shop and liquor store in the building.

At the time, the building at 17 Second St. SE was a landmark and one of the oldest buildings in Rochester, having originally been the Burton Livery Stable. In the early 1920s, it was home to Town Cab Company and Buddy’s Sandwich Shop, conveniently located next door to the Chicago Great Western passenger depot.

At about 1 a.m. on Dec. 30, 1953, a cab driver noticed smoke coming from under the eaves. The firefight was on, in 4 below temps, lasting about 90 minutes until the roof of the old building collapsed.

Dozens of New Year’s Eve plans would need to be changed.

Lens on History is a weekly photo feature by Lee Hilgendorf, a volunteer at the History Center of Olmsted County.

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