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

Updated 26 June 2012 with Donation Information (see bottom of post)

[PRG: Incoming from multiple sources]

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

About Ferdinand Meyer V

Ferdinand Meyer V is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and has a BFA in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design. Ferdinand is the founding Principal of FMG Design, a nationally recognized design consultation firm. Ferdinand is a passionate collector of American historical glass specializing in bitters bottles, color runs and related classic figural bottles. He is married to Elizabeth Jane Meyer and lives in Houston, Texas with their daughter and three wonderful grandchildren. The Meyers are also very involved in Quarter Horses, antiques and early United States postage stamps. Ferdinand is the past 6-year President of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and is one of the founding members of the FOHBC Virtual Museum.
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3 Responses to Greenbrier TN: Fire destroys over $400,000 in antiques.

  1. sandchip says:

    I think that’s everyone’s nightmare. Just pitiful. If a fund is established, I’ll be glad to help.

  2. IXL says:

    What a horrific personal loss, as well as a horrible loss to our hobby.

    While at the San Diego Bottle Show this past weekend, donations for the Claude Bellar fund were being collected, but it wasn’t clear how much assistance, if any, Nancy will be receiving. Not to take away from the heartache of his loss, it sounds like Claude had insurance on the building and has no interest in building his collection back up? Nancy appears to be in need the most. Just wondering if anyone can shed a little more insight on how this fund will be dispersed? Whatever the case, I feel for them both. It had to be a true living nightmare to come home to this.

    • Thanks for the comment. I am trying to develop a strategy to help or at least remind people to get content insurance. It is a tragic story. I hope to have some more information soon. I suspect the money Pam collected may go to help with some necessity or another.

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