E m m i t s b u r g  B o w l i n g  L a n e s

Emmitsburg Recreation Center, which once contained the Emmitsburg Lanes bowling alleys, was located across an alley from the existing laundromat on West Main Street and was in operation from the 1940s until 1965.

The building housing the recreation center was described by The (Frederick) News, in 1965, as having been “two stories tall in the front with three apartments over the snack bar,” and that “the back of the building drops down to a one-story level over the bowling alley.”

The  Emmitsburg Recreation Center and the inclusive Emmitsburg Lanes were owned and operated by  Charles A. Harner, who owned other theaters as well. The center served as the host to numerous tournaments during its existence, in addition to sponsoring local leagues and teams. The News noted in 1951 that the center had established the “Civil League,” consisting of 12 teams.

Things didn’t always go well at the center. The News reported on November 14, 1950, that Harner “is recovering at his home from injuries received when two men gave him a brutal beating at his place of business.” His injuries landed him in the Annie E. Warner Hospital (later known as the Gettysburg Hospital) for a week before his release.

Sometime during 1958, three individuals broke into the center and stole some $35 from a soda machine, cash register, and a tray that contained $20 in pennies, according to The News. This and other acts resulted in two of the participants being remanded over to the Maryland House of Corrections. A third suspect was awaiting a hearing in the juvenile court.

On March 25, 1965, the glory days of the Emmitsburg Recreation Center came to a disastrous end in a raging blaze, covered by newspapers from Cumberland to Frederick to Baltimore.  The morning after the fire, the top headline of The News read, “Blaze Ruins Recreation Center.”

The News reported that the fire had been initially reported around 11:35 p.m. on March 25, and that the fire had spread throughout “the entire first story of the building, including a 10-lane bowling alley and a snack bar.”

According to The (Baltimore) Evening Sun, state police stated that the fire had been started in a deep-fryer in the snack bar of the Recreation Bowling  Lanes,” and then “spread rapidly through the restaurant and bowling alleys.” More specifically, The News reported that the fire had started “from an overheated deep fry pan when grease exploded and set the restaurant section of the brick building on fire.”

More than 70 firefighters rushed to the scene of the blaze, The News stated, which included firefighters from Emmitsburg, Thurmont, and the Citizens Company of Frederick. The newspaper reported that the firefighters had battled the blaze for more than six hours, and the smoldering embers continued to be doused with water even longer until there was no chance of the fire rekindling itself.

The News reported that the fire companies were shooting water from their hoses onto the burning building from the rooftops of the laundromat and the United Church of Christ, and that the blaze had raged “uncontrollably” from 11:35 p.m. to around 1:00 a.m.

The Cumberland News reported that “A woman and her three children were rescued by ladder from the smoke-filled apartment on the second floor.”   The News identified the four individuals as “Mrs. Andrew Michell, and her three children, all under four years of age,” further noting that the rescue had been conducted by members of the Emmitsburg Fire Company (predecessor of the Vigilant Hose Company),

Two couples living in the other apartments had made their own way out to safety. The News identified them as having been Mr. and Mrs. Henry Troxell and Mr. and Mrs. Junior Manahan, all of whom had found their way out “through the dense smoke,” further stating that several bowling alley patrons had also managed to escape the smoke and fire.

The Sun reported that state police had stated that the building had sustained an estimated $70,000 in damages in the fire. The News noted that the building was covered by insurance, but the contents of the restaurant, which was managed by William Boyd, were not covered. The apartments were not burned but had sustained smoke and water damage.

One Emmitsburg fireman had been overcome by smoke and was transported to the Annie E. Warner Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Harner never re-opened the center or the bowling alleys.

Unidentified bowlers at Emmitsburg Recreation Center.

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