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Fire Damages Barnsdall's Historic Downtown

Cleaning up continues in Barnsdall after historic building burns to the ground. Crews are still sifting through debris after a weekend fire destroyed the American Legion building in Barnsdall. The flames also damaged two other buildings.

So what comes next for the downtown area? News on 6 anchor Craig Day went to Osage County to find out.

People in Barnsdall say it's a shame that a grand old building is reduced to rubble. J.D. Cole is one of those folks who hated to see the American Legion building destroyed by fire. "Kind of like losing a member of the family more or less." It can't be replaced." Built in 1920, it wasn't the oldest building in town, but it was close. And for many generations, the American Legion building stood as a landmark along Main Street.

Barnsdall resident Ruth Williams: "In the architecture, like the square rocks and all that kind of stuff, it was a pretty building."

To make matters worse, the cost to insure the old building had gotten too high. The American Legion only had a liability policy. The brick and stone building was valued at $180,000. The American Legion plans to rebuild, but it will have to be done with fundraisers and donations. Its also hoped grants will help.

Although the American Legion plans to rebuild on this site, Barnsdall lost a lot of history in that fire. The building was once a hotel. Clark Gable used to live here before he moved to Hollywood and became a star. At one time or another, over the years, thousands of people have spent time in that American Legion hall. J.D. Cole: "I've been to a lot of dances here, and some back room poker games. A lot of memories that are kind or irreplaceable. It's sad."

For now, those memories are about all that is left. Memories shared by people who regret that main street won't ever look the same. For now, the American Legion will meet in an old post office building.

The community's nutrition center operated out of the old building is now set up at a Barnsdall church. Crews hope to finish cleaning up before the town's Bigheart celebration Memorial Day weekend.
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