Rappahannock County lost a piece of its history Friday as the oldest continuously operated restaurant in the county was destroyed by fire.
The Lom-Bar-Dy Restaurant on U.S. 211 in Amissville was ruined by an overnight blaze in its kitchen early Friday. The fire call came in about 12:30 a.m. Friday morning, and units from the Amissville, Flint Hill, Little Fork (Culpeper County) and Warrenton fire companies responded to the scene.
John Peare of the Amissville fire company, who was on the scene of the blaze, said the fire started showing first from the kitchen area at the back of the small, wood-frame diner. It is not clear how the fire started, he said, but added there was no indication that the fire was of suspicious origin.
The building was heavily damaged and appeared to be a total loss. The interior was charred and took heavy smoke damage and the back walls of the kitchen area were burned out. Much of the kitchen equipment lay charred and damaged behind the building, which was surrounded by yellow police tape.
J.B. Carter, chief of the Amissville Volunteer Fire & Rescue company, said it appeared the fire started in the kitchen due to an electrical problem or a malfunctioning appliance. All the kitchen appliances were destroyed and the roof over the kitchen burned. “It’s going to be a total loss,” he said. If the building had just one sprinkler in the kitchen, the restaurant probably would have been saved, he said.
Carter also said there was no indication of suspicious origin. There was no forced entry to the building. The fire did not extend far into the customer service area, he said, and normally in an arson, a fire accelerant would have been spread throughout the building.
On Tuesday, Carter said the exact cause of the fire was still undetermined.
The owner of the restaurant property, Ronnie Lee Poe, who lives next door to the Lom-Bar-Dy, said he was awakened early Saturday by the arrival of fire trucks. “The back of the restaurant was engulfed in flame,” he said. “It looks like it was a kitchen fire, but any number of things could have caused it.”
Poe said the building has been in his family since 1945, when his aunt Irva Poe bought it as a going restaurant business at that time. She ran the restaurant for more than 30 years until the mid- to late-1970s, Poe said. He believes that the restaurant operation dates back to the 1920s or 1930s, which would make it one of the oldest businesses in Rappahannock and its longest-running restaurant.
For the past 17 years, Poe said, the restaurant has been leased and operated by George Pullen of Amissville and his family, including daughter Angie.
Poe is uncertain about the future of the property. “At the stage it is now, it is probably unsalvageable,” he said of the building. He said he is reluctant to demolish the building because of its long family connection, but there is little to save. The cost of constructing a new restaurant building to meet all of today’s more stringent building and health codes may be prohibitively high, he said.
“I hate to see it go down,” he said. “I spent a lot of time there as a child” when his aunt Irva ran the Lom-Bar-Dy. “If I restored it now it would be more of a sentimental thing than a business proposition. I don’t know what I will do. Right now I am still in shock. We’ll just wait and see.”
Angie Pullen, who has been running the restaurant for the past several years, also expressed uncertainty Wednesday about the future.
“It’s such a big loss, I guess we’ll just do the best we can until we an look into maybe starting again,” though she said any decision about the building will be Poe’s to make, not the Pullen family’s.
“It just won’t be the same anywhere else,” she said.
“We extended our family there, and made a lot of friends — and right now they will be truly and deeply missed.”
James P. Gannon is the editor and publisher of rappvoice.com, where this article first appeared. Rappahannock News staff also contributed to this report.