Greenbrier TN: Fire destroys over $400,000 in antiques

* Updated 09 August 2012 with Thank You from Nancy & Claude

* Updated 26 June 2012 with Donation Information

Subject: Tragedy in Tennessee

On Monday, Memorial Day, the 7,000 square foot building owned by Claude Bellar in Greenbrier, TN, burned to the ground. In it was housed Claude’s extensive fruit jar collection (approximately 1,500 fruit jars, no two alike), jar rubber collection, fruit jar boxes, approximately 125 Tennessee whiskey crocks, numerous Tennessee bottles, many of them paper labels, lots of Robertson County and Tennessee paper items, farm tools and other various collections spanning over 60 years.

Also housed in the building was half or more of the items I salvaged from my home in the 2010 flood along with a few pieces of replacement furniture purchased during the last year. Many boxes of my large milk bottle and dairy items collections are gone along with around 150 vintage cow and pastoral pictures (several oil), some dating in the 1800s. Collections of Bristol glass, hand painted enamel glass, art glass, laundry collectibles, and over two hundred vintage kitchen utensils amassed over the past 40 years were lost. Another devastating blow, to say the least.

My travel trailer where I have been living since the flood two years ago, was miraculously spared being only ten feet from the building! The fire department kept flooding that side of the building with water to keep it from the trailer. However, the trailer electricity is lost due to the fire so it is not liveable right now. I have two cats and can only find one of them. I am surrounded by woods so I am praying she is only traumatized and hiding and will surface soon. My two dogs were not affected, for which I am very grateful.

I just wanted to let our friends and fellow collectors in the hobby know about this loss. It is heartbreaking to know that so much of history is now ashes.

Nancy Pennington

See Video of News Report

A Great Idea

PRG: From Steve Ketcham

Hi Ferdinand, I am not sure if you have received this news or not, but it is the kind of event we collectors all fear. I just Spoke with Gene Bradberry about it and suggested perhaps the Federation could organize a fund drive to help Claude and Nancy out a bit. Since Gene is currently dealing with health issues and a garage that was just today struck by lightning, he asked that I get in touch with you about the idea. I am thinking maybe it could be organized via various media such as the FOHBC web site, the two bottle magazines, and Peachridge Glass. I have no experience in matters like this, but I am thinking a bank in their area might be willing to accept the donations and allow them access as needed. I would be happy to contact a local bank to get the ball rolling. Being the good people we are, I feel our bottle collecting community would respond positively.

Your thoughts?


On a happier note, I’m looking forward to Reno!



Account information re Claude and Nancy

Hi Steve,

Here is the information you requested for the account. It is the SunTrust Bank in Nashville.

Benefit Account for Claude Bellar and/or Nancy Pennington
Account # 1000144216743
SunTrust Bank
2503 Lebanon Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
Phone: 615-874-3755
Fax: 615-391-0735

We appreciate your doing this. Only fellow collectors can understand the devastation Claude and I both feel. We are sifting through the ashes every afternoon after work to try to recover a few things but most of the items are either so blackened or fragile, it is hard to save much.

Claude lost all of his collections since they were all displayed and had no protection from the fire. A few of my things such as cow creamers survived due to the fact they were packed up in boxes from recovery from the flood in 2010. About 98% of my collections are gone. We had just finished moving about 700 of my milk bottle collection from my house that flooded to store in his building until I find a new home. I found pieces of several of my rarest milk bottles like the Thatcher set and the Chicago Sterilized Milk Co. set. Mostly it is a big glob of melted glass. As best the fire officials can figure, the heat inside that building reached over 1500 degrees. Not much can survive that.

My cat never came home so I can only assume she perished in the fire. I agonize over that every day. She had been with me seven years.

Thank you again for your support. Our bottle collecting family is the best!


Nancy Pennington


Thank You from Nancy and Claude

Hi Pam,

It is with a humble heart that I extend a major “Thank You” for the generous check you sent from the San Diego show people. I would like to acknowledge each person in some way if you can let me know how to do so.
I apologize for the delay in responding. After going through the 2010 flood and losing my home, then the fire which took the majority of what I had recovered from the flood, and losing my two precious cats, I pretty much lost it. I came as close to losing my mind as I ever have. I’ve had knocks in life just like everyone else, but to have so much hit me in two years, it was almost more than I could manage.
Having said all that, I can report that time does help with the healing. I am beginning to accept the losses and move on. Claude and I are sifting through the ashes to see if anything survived. We have found a lot of small stuff, most of it damaged or smoked but some is salvageable. He hopes to build a small shed or building back just to have a little storage and place for outside equipment but it will never be anything like the building he had.
Claude lost the most in collectibles that he had worked on acquiring over 60+ years. His fruit jar collection was fabulous having around 1500 all different, some very expensive and rare, along with many go-with items that can’t be replaced. His whiskey jug collection was quite extensive also. A lot of paper and advertising history of Tennessee was lost and will never be available in any form again. He is devastated but like most men, he is holding a lot inside. It is hard for me to see his sadness and pain. We are both trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
We had our lawn mowers, weed eaters and yard equipment along with household items and summer clothes stored in the building along with furniture to replace what I lost in the flood. This is what the money will be used for – to replace items that we use and have to buy again.
Again, we both appreciate more than you all know the generosity and kindness shown by our friends in the FOHBC. We have many friends that we have made over the years and they all still hold a special place in our hearts. We are tied down with an antique shop that we keep open seven days a week from 9 am to 6 pm so we don’t get to travel anymore. We both miss it terribly as we had some great times at the shows.
If you can, please extend this appreciation to the people or let me know how I can do so for the both of us.
Nancy Pennington
and Claude Bellar