PACIFIC BEACH — Mim and Paul Groesse are determined to rebuild after fire destroyed their historic Beach Avenue Bed and Breakfast in Pacific Beach Jan. 25.
The couple now are living in the small one-bedroom cottage removed from the main building, where Paul and Mim had catered to a long list of clients as one of the most popular B&B’s on the North Beach for the past two decades.
Lost in the fire were a number of treasures and artifacts, including the 1940 Oscar statue for the movie “Pride and Prejudice” received by Paul’s father, an award-winning Hollywood art director. They also lost the piano on which Paul loved to entertain guests.
Mim said she was awakened by smoke detectors and she and Paul were the only ones at the B&B when it caught fire early on that Friday morning.
“They think it was some wiring in a bedroom along the baseboard. There was a wire that kind of got stapled through,” she said.
Damage was extensive through the downstairs rear portion of the main building.
“It’s sad. It was a historical home,” Mim said as a salvage crew worked to clear out the structure.
The house was built in 1905 as a beach house for Josiah Stearns, a partner in the Simpson Lumber Company who also owned the water company in Hoquiam. Mim and Paul have owned it since 1988.
“We woke up about 12:30 at night with the smoke alarm going off,” Mim said. When Paul opened the doorway, the heat was so intense it singed the beard on his face.
“I said, ‘Shut that door,’ and grabbed my keys and phone on the dresser, and got in the car and moved the car away because I was afraid it was going to catch on fire,” Mim said. “Then I got dressed in the street because I had grabbed some clothes. So we just got out.”
By the time fire fighters got to the scene, flames and smoke engulfed the center of the building, and water was poured on the wood structure for nearly five hours. The living room and kitchen were cedar tongue-and-groove paneling, likely old growth that can never be replaced. “Everything is ruined, everything is ruined,” she repeated. “You think you can save this or that, but no. You can’t save anything.” Both are so thankful they got out alive and for the support of Fire District No. 8 volunteers.
They have gone from a 3,000 square-foot home to a cottage of 500 square feet.
Mim notes that Paul’s father, also named Paul Groesse, won three Oscars in a long movie career, and the statues are supposed to be guaranteed for life. She shows the melted-down Oscar that still bears the inscription after the fire that says: “For black and white art direction of Pride and Prejudice.”
“I’m going to mail pictures of this and see if I can get a new one,” she said. The couple also had plaques and copies of all the Oscar nominations Paul Groesse received, 11 nominations in all, winning three. The other two were “The Yearling” (1946) and “Little Women” (1949).
Mim and Paul have had to contact all the guests who had booked reservations, some a year or more in advance. And they are missing out on the popular Valentine’s Day and Chocolate on the Beach Festival crowds this month.
How long it will take to rebuild is unknown, but they do have insurance that covers loss of income.
“I’m still getting emails from people who are asking for a room,” Mim sighs.
The couple credit the area’s MAP organization (Moclips, Aloha, Pacific Beach) with helping them adjust. “The community has been amazing,” Mim said.
As she looks out over the deck with its view of the ocean and Pacific Beach State Park, Mim knows she didn’t lose everything.
“The view didn’t burn up,” she said with determination to rebuild.