Merced Express, January 13, 1933


Another Merced landmark was removed early Wednesday evening when the building known as the Huffman mansion, located just across Bear Creek at M street, was totally destroyed by fire. The origin of the fire, which broke out in one of the upper rooms at about 5:30 o’clock, has not been determined, as the building had been unoccupied for several months past, with only a caretaker in charge.

The fire department responded to the alarm, but as the fire was outside the city limits the fire apparatus was not put into operation because of the fact that the provisions of the department’s compensation insurance policy would preclude the payment of damages for injuries sustained by firemen while on duty outside the city. However, a line of hose was loaned to employees of the Crocker-Huffman Company, who were thus able to prevent the spread for the flames to a large tank-house and other structures in the rear of the building.

Nick Bispos, the caretaker, who discovered the fire, made two attempts to enter the burning building to save his belongings. He is now in Mercy Hospital under treatment for nervousness and the effects of breathing smoke.

The destroyed building was owned by the Stowe Estate, of which Mrs. L D. Van Horne, formerly of Merced and now a resident of Santa Barbara, is manager, and the loss is estimated at about 30,000. The building was erected in 1882 by the late C. H. Huffman at a total cost of approximately $1000,000. It was a three-story structure of thirty-two rooms, and with its beautiful surroundings, was one of the show places of early-day Merced.

For several years after Mr. Huffman disposed of his Merced interests to the Crocker Company the residence was occupied by the families of the company’s local managers, and a few years ago it was sold to the Stowe Estate and was occupied by the Van Hornes until their removal to Santa Barbara.

Contributed by Thomas Hilk