Tremont closed for repairs

T-R PHOTOS BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ TOP - The force of the winds caused damage to the airducts resulting in the collapse of the ceiling inside the Tremont Grille. BELOW - Views from the top of the Tremont show destruction downtown and to the Marshall County Courthouse.

Like most businesses in the heart of the downtown, The Tremont, a sprawling 60,000-square-foot business located at 20-30 W. Main St., didn’t come out of the tornado unscathed. JP Howard, who owns the place with his wife Jennifer, literally had a bird’s-eye view of the storm.

“A lot of people don’t know we live up here,” Howard said.

He and his wife reside in condo space on the roof of the complex. The area, known as the Eagle’s Nest, was where the couple took shelter, but also where he could see the tornado roaring into the downtown.

“I was watching the weather. When they said it’s coming down Main Street, I skipped across the roof (to where) my wife was in the kitchen, and she was on the phone,” he said. “I picked up the cat and we went in our closet, while it came through and blew everything out.”

The rooftop furniture was damaged and most of the windows shattered.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the hotel and eatery areas, more chaos was unfolding.

The complex encompasses several businesses: the Tremont on Main fine dining restaurant and the Tremont Grille, plus the Historical Tremont Inn. The Howards also own the Fiddle & Whistle Irish pub next door, which sustained little damage.

“We had a gas leak. Guests checked out of the hotel Thursday evening,” Howard said. “We lost power until Friday evening, but still don’t have hot water.”

The Tremont had 28 air conditioning units and two hood systems on the roof, for use by the restaurants. All of them were destroyed by the tornado.

“(The tornado) sent really fast wind down through our vents, which made the ceiling in the grille collapse, and blew the (front) windows out,” he said.

But people rallied to help.

US Foods brought in a refrigerated trailer for the Howards to keep food for the restaurant from spoiling. Volunteers from Emerson-Fisher helped with the cleanup.

“We’re doing everything we’re supposed to for our insurance companies. It’s all anybody can do. We’re optimistic. We’re fast-paced right now. I’m on full adrenaline,” he said.

The historic building was constructed in 1872, and was operated as a hotel. In 1902, the top of the building burned and was rebuilt two years later. The top floor served as office space, while the bottom offered space for retailers. The Howards purchased the building in 1998.

Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com