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A New Year's Eve fire destroyed the historic Toll...

WHITMAN, Mass. -- A New Year's Eve fire destroyed the historic Toll House Restaurant, a 275-year-old landmark where chocolate chip cookies were invented.

'The Toll House will have to come back. It will have to,' said the owner Carol Saccone, who vowed Tuesday to rebuild the restaurant that once served as a toll station for colonial travelers.

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A grease fire in the restaurant's kitchen started the fire about 11:30 p.m. Monday as some 200 revelers were about to ring in the new year, fire officials said.

Everyone was evacuated from the wood-frame building and there were no injuries.

'Instead of pouring champagne, we were standing there watching the Toll House burn down. There were 80 employees crying. It's just unbelievable,' Saccone said.

Fire officials said flames quickly spread through the sprawling 2-story structure, built in 1709 as a toll station for travelers on the Boston-New Bedford Toll Road and enlarged into a restaurant in the 1930s.

'It got into the ductwork ... and from then on it just mushroomed into the building. There was no cutting it off,' said Deputy Fire Chief Ken Baker.

Firefighters from five towns fought the blaze for nearly five hours. By dawn, little remained of the town's most popular landmark where the first Toll House chocolate chip cookie was baked.

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'It was a very pretty place -- white with green shutters and green trim,' said police officer Frederick Richard. 'It definitely will be missed.'

The building was enlarged into a restaurant in the 1930s by Ruth Wakefield, who invented the chocolate chip cookie while puttering around the kitchen.

'Mrs. Wakefield was making cookies one day. And she cut a chocolate bar up in pieces, thinking it would melt and it didn't,' said Saccone.

Saccone and her husband, who bought the restaurant in 1972, carried on Mrs. Wakefield's legacy and sold 'Toll House cookies' -- prompting a law suit by Nestle over the trademark.

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