WATERVILLE — A fire early Sunday destroyed The Last Unicorn restaurant at 8 Silver St. in downtown Waterville, drawing a large emergency response and forcing temporary closure of that area of Main Street.

Investigators with the Office of State Fire Marshal determined the fire was accidental and began in an area of the restaurant where cleaning rags were stored, according to a statement Sunday afternoon from Shannon Moss, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Chief Shawn Esler of the Waterville Fire-Rescue Department said firefighters responded just before 4 a.m. to the restaurant and found heavy fire in the rear of the building.

The restaurant is flanked on each side by buildings housing the Silver Street Tavern & Restaurant at 2 Silver St. and Cancun Mexican Bar & Grill at 14 Silver St., on a short section of road that connects Main Street with The Concourse.

Firefighters made initial entry into the building, Esler said, but exited after finding heavy fire inside. At that point, they moved to defensive operations to prevent the fire from spreading to the buildings on either side.

Firefighters called in an excavator from the Waterville Public Works Department to knock down the front and back walls of the building to allow for better access to the fire.


“We made that decision based on salvaging the adjacent properties,” Esler said. “Sometimes, we have to make hard decisions as fire service leaders as to what is savable and what is not savable. At that point in time, it was the best decision to open up the front of the building to allow better fire suppression efforts.”

Waterville firefighters responded with an aerial tower, and crews also responded from Winslow, Oakland, Sidney, Clinton and other departments.

Esler said he did not have an exact time for when the fire considered extinguished, but by 8:30 a.m., crews at the scene were working on cleanup.

Firefighters were not notified of anyone occupying the building at the time of the fire, Esler said. Three firefighters suffered minor burns when making their initial entry into the building.

The structure of the building was entirely gone, a stark gap between the neighboring restaurants. Silver Street was still covered in firefighting foam at about 9 a.m., with hoses running down the block as firefighters continued cleaning up. While The Last Unicorn is a complete loss, Esler said the buildings on either side were largely intact, with some smoke damage.

Firefighters respond to a blaze early Sunday at The Last Unicorn restaurant at 8 Silver St. in downtown Waterville. Waterville Fire-Rescue Department photo

Esler said crews had to remain at the scene for several hours Sunday to complete cleanup efforts, and the Fire Department had contacted the company that manages the property, which was assisting with the work.


The Waterville Fire-Rescue Department reported briefly on its Facebook page at about 5 a.m. that crews were “battling a fire on Main Street,” and asked that people “stay clear of the area.”

An official who answered the telephone at the Fire Department shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday confirmed officials had blocked that area of Main Street to traffic as crews continued to work at the scene, and Main Street remained closed from Common Street to Spring Street at 9 a.m., but by 11:30 a.m. Main Street was open for traffic, although Silver Street was still blocked off.

Sarah Giggey was surveying the damaged building Sunday morning, after calling 911 in the early hours to report the fire. Giggey lives above the Silver Street Tavern & Restaurant, on the fourth floor, and said she awoke early Sunday and could smell smoke from her laundry room.

When she opened the blinds, she could see smoke and sparks coming out of the building, where she believed the restaurant’s kitchen was located. As she watched, she saw a window explode outward with flames. Realizing she could not see firefighters at the scene, she called 911 to report the fire and woke up her children to get out of the building.

The Last Unicorn closes at 9 p.m. Saturdays, according to its website, but Giggey said she saw people leaving the building at about 11 p.m., presumably after finishing with cleanup.

Giggey said she was a frequent visitor of the restaurant, and the food was some of the best in downtown Waterville.


Firefighters stand near a metal sculpture of a unicorn that was recovered Sunday morning after a blaze destroyed The Last Unicorn at 8 Silver St. in downtown Waterville. Firefighters from many departments battled the fire at the newly reopened restaurant. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The Lockwood Hotel at 9 Main St., across from the intersection with Silver Street, offered residents of the apartments above the Silver Street Tavern & Restaurant free rooms for the day, according to Nick Singel, who works at the hotel’s front desk. Three people stayed at the hotel for the day, Singel said, and while the hotel offered them space for the night, residents had made other arrangements.

Christina Ames, the front of house manager at the Silver Street Tavern & Restaurant, said the restaurant was closed Sunday so the property could be assessed, including what is needed for cleanup. She said she did not know when the restaurant, which is normally closed Mondays, would reopen. She said those who run the restaurant would work to have it open as soon as possible.

Ames said an initial assessment Sunday indicated the damage was much less than expected, and those who run the Silver Street Tavern & Restaurant are working with the property manager to make repairs quickly.

A firefighter stands Sunday morning on the roof of the Cancun Mexican Bar & Grill while spraying hot spots after a blaze destroyed The Last Unicorn at 8 Silver St. in downtown Waterville. Firefighters from many departments battled the fire that destroyed the newly reopened restaurant. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho said the Cancun Mexican Bar & Grill was also closed Sunday.

On the other side of Cancun, the Wild Clover Cafe & Market at 16 Silver St., which owner Tanja McCarthy said did not have damage from the fire, was able to open as normal Sunday.

McCarthy said she was saddened by the fire, which she described as “gutting,” and described the owners of The Last Unicorn, who were not identified Sunday, as lovely people who are enthusiastic about their restaurant.


“It’s your recipes. It’s so much of you that is put into this that cannot be replaced,” McCarthy said.

Coelho said he had spoken Sunday with the owners of The Last Unicorn and the property’s owner. He said the plan is to conduct an impact study and then clear the fire debris, clean out the entire lot and put down gravel so it is safe to walk the property.

The Last Unicorn’s owners have insurance, Coelho said, and he is working to raise money to help the restaurant’s employees.

“We are going to make sure that the employees who work there have their wages covered for the next couple weeks,” Coelho said.

The Last Unicorn had reopened in February after being closed for an extended period.

Managing Editor Scott Monroe contributed to this report.

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