CHERRY GROVE: Fire Destroys Two Hotels, Gay Nightclub, And Several Residences

A massive fire swept through Cherry Grove’s commercial district on Fire Island last night, destroying several private homes, the Holly House Hotel, and the Grove Hotel, the last of which was home to the famed Ice Palace nightclub. For decades the Ice Palace hosted the Miss Fire Island pageant and served as the kickoff location for the annual Fire Island Pines Drag Invasion. Local authorities say that the source of the blaze, which reportedly broke out on the nearby boardwalk, is unknown. About 80 firefighters were on the scene and two suffered injuries, but no residents were hurt, possibly because most of Fire Island is unoccupied at this time of year. Last night’s fire was yet another in a recent string of disasters to strike Fire Island’s two predominantly gay towns. The commercial district of neighboring Fire Island Pines was destroyed in a 2011 fire and both towns were flooded during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.

(Via Towleroad)

UPDATE: Contrary to the above-linked Newsday report that the Grove Hotel is a “complete loss,” this news item says the Ice Palace nightclub portion of the complex suffered only minor damage.

  • wc1e

    I was just at an underwear party there last summer!

    • Ragnar Lothbrok

      any pics ?

    • 2karmanot

      I don’t ever remember wearing underwear on Fire Island.

  • bkmn

    Not sure why I am getting the feeling that there may be some moneyed interests that would love for this real estate to become available.

  • John NYC

    PLEASE do NOT keep spreading false info! The Ice Palace is actually FINE. The hotel and 3 or 4 houses were destroyed. I am stressing this because all Fire Island communities are hurting financially and if people think the Ice Palace is gone they will not book their vacation at Cherry Grove. FYI I am only a renter there, I have no agenda other than to help the people I have come to know & love out there

    • Rebecca Gardner

      I wonder if you know my cousin and his husband. They are always at Cherry Grove and have a house there. Michael & Paul

      • John NYC

        lol, I know 3 different couples with those names! The Paul isn’t “Tall Paul” wit the white hair by any chance?

        • Rebecca Gardner

          No, not Tall Paul. My cousin Michael is the tall one in the relationship. He’s like 6’4″ or something.

        • You just brought back happy memories of the many weekends (and weeks) I spent on FI.

    • JoeMyGod

      I’ve updated my post with the contradictory news item which says the Ice Palace is largely unscathed.

      • John NYC

        Thanks Joe, I have a special spot in my heart for Cherry Grove & its the only thing I get defensive about

        • loosevowels


        • Todd20036

          Is that spot located somewhere in the Meat Rack?

        • Octavio

          I’ve got a similar spot, but on my liver. I consumed far too many Long Island Ice Teas there when they were “a thing.”

      • Chuck in NYC

        Yeah, thanks for the update — I kept looking at that overhead picture thinking it didn’t look like the Ice Palace side that was burnt down.

  • Highly


  • JaniceInToronto

    See? Ice Palace is fine. Proof Jesus loves the gays.

    • John NYC


  • Uncle Sal

    Jesus, is everyplace I spent my youth in NYC to be burned to the ground?! My first weekend on Fire Island in 1963 I attended the infamous Cleopatra house party, (yes, I’m that old). Let’s just say I was flown to Islip from Philly by a lovely older man who fancied 19 year old me and I had the time of my life. So sad to see still more of my memories go up in flames. . . I spent many special times there over the next few years.

    • Bozzy Lewis

      1963 !….Wow, that’s 52 years ago and the Ice Palace was called the “Bat Cave” way back then. Remember “Duffy’s Hotel” across from the Monster and facing the water ? That also burned to the ground in the early 1960’s, I believe. Those buildings there are all made of wood and most are old, dried-out and worn. It is a hostile environment on the ocean and these towns on Fire Island are isolated and vulnerable; particularly in off-season, when they are basically deserted. It is a tinder-box waiting to ignite and fire is an ever real and ominous threat out there. By the time any volunteer fire dep’t can get to the scene…the site is gone and usually along with all adjacent buildings.

      • Uncle Sal

        Wow. Your memory is a hellaofa lot better than mine! But even back then, fire was always to be feared. Still, as a kid from South Philly, it was a wonderland to me the first time I saw it. Who knew such a place existed and just about everyone was a fag, just like me! Heaven on earth, if it was just for a long weekend. I still remember the sign outside the house next door, “Trespassers will be violated!” I couldn’t wait to be next. . .

  • Bozzy Lewis

    Yes, you are correct. As the photo shows, the hotel is gone, but the Ice Palace building, on the other side, where the bar and dance floor is appears undamaged by the fire. However, let’s be real, the Grove Hotel is the centerpiece of gay life in Summer in Cherry Grove and without it this season, the place will really suffer. The pool is badly charred and I am sure the IP will not be open this Summer. The whole hotel must be leveled and rebuilt, and this will take at least a year. The old Holly House Guesthouse, formerly owned by Franklin (deceased) ,was also totally destroyed, as was the former Carousel Guesthouse, run by Trish at 185 Holly Walk. Holly Walk is just behind the Grove Hotel and was devastated. There are other smaller hotels like the Belvedere and Dune Point, but they are not large enough to accommodate all the people that normally converge on the Grove in Summer to take up the slack in the absence of our beloved Grove Hotel. All these off-season fires out there smell suspicious to me, too.

    • 2karmanot

      Ah, the Belvedere—-such memories.

  • caphillprof

    It was lightning, right?

  • KCMC

    This history from there?

  • Marides48

    Interesting. Out of curiosity (Californian), a friend & I took the ferry to Fire Island in 2007 & stayed at this hotel. We woke up to the fire alarm & we were the only ones that ran out of the building. We were told, “it was just a kitchen fire, it happen all the time.”

    This time it was a more serious fire?

  • TKW

    I’m sure this is all part of God’s wrath against gay marriage along with California’s drought and the banning of Cadbury Eggs for Easter.

  • Bozzy Lewis

    Seems these “accidental” fires always occur in the off-season, when there is no one around to readily summon the fire dep’t and extinguish it ! The one at the Botel in the pines also took place in early Spring and devastated that edifice. Fire Island is very susceptible to fires……no pun intended ! The buildings are all wood and most are old, worn and dried-out due to the harsh environment by the open ocean. Many are also older and have no sprinkler systems. They claim roof work was being done at the Holly House, right adjacent to the Grove Hotel. It is possible a faulty space heater, hot plate or some other device left on by the workers could have ignited the fire. But who really knows ? You can sure bet the insurance companies involved will be doing battling with the proprietors of these high-end properties, to claim it was arson , and was intentionally set for big pay-outs and they refuse to pay the claims ! What will it cost in today’s dollars to rebuild that hotel ? 5 or 6 million, perhaps more ? The land alone on that parcel and much smaller Holly House is worth several millions of dollars ! Anyhow, the owner pledges to rebuild…..after all, without the Grove Hotel, Cherry Grove is nothing ! Thankfully, the iconic Ice Palace Disco was not really damaged much. That half of the complex needs a makeover, anyhow ! It is old, run-down, worn-out and will probably be fixed-up to resemble the new hotel on the outside.

  • Bozzy Lewis

    Doubt they will be able to get the IP up and running by Summer. The Grove Hotel has to be leveled and carted away and then it will be a construction site. It will take at least one full year of non-stop work to rebuild that hotel…..possibly longer ! Things move slow on Fire Island, due to its isolation and lack of roads and access. They may cordon off the area by the pool and old hotel and keep the club open…..but it is doubtful !