Historic Building, Classic Cars Saved From Devastating Barnsdall Fire

Thursday, February 19th 2015, 7:01 pm
By: Tess Maune

Downtown Barnsdall will never look the same after a devastating fire burned through nearly a block of buildings on Wednesday night.

Flames burned through the night as fire departments from the surrounding area teamed up to put the fire out. Crews had to haul in water from several miles away when the water supply was cut off along with the power.

But even all that hard work wasn't enough to save one of the buildings.

The building where it all started has already been torn down for safety reasons. It was an old hair salon, but fire investigators say kids were known to hang out in the vacant building. They said it's possible that child's play is to blame for nearly wiping out this entire block.

One of the buildings a historic gem that Jack Kelley used as his getaway “man cave,” survived.

2/18/2015 Related Story: Fire Destroys Three Downtown Buildings In Barnsdall

If walls could talk.

“That building's liable to have a lot of stories,” Kelley said.

In 1920, it was built by the Knights of Pythias, a secret society where wealthy men met with handshakes, collected swords and had hidden rooms tucked away inside.

“The ceilings are only about 6 feet tall in them, and there's a hidden room here, too. I guess they did certain rituals in those,” Kelley said.

The rituals have changed over the course of almost a century but maybe not too much.

“We like to go down there and tell some lies,” Kelley said.

He owns the old brick building now and he calls it his man cave. But when the old hair salon two doors down burst into flames, Kelley feared it was only a matter of time before his place did the same.

“The firemen got out here and they saved my building, my building came oh-so-close to being gone,” he said.

A charred wall inside shows exactly that.

Kelley and his brother Ron had four collector cars inside the building. Once they heard about the fire, they couldn't get there fast enough to get the cars out. A 1969 Camaro, a 1960 and 1970 Corvette and a 1967 Mustang are all safe.

And with the help of the restoration company ServPro, Kelley will soon have a new story to tell in his man cave. He's hoping the only smoke in his building is from the tailpipe of a classic car.

Reporter: “You're lucky.”
Kelley: “Ah, blessed. We'll call it blessed.”

2/19/2015 Related Story: Cleanup Begins After Fire Burns Downtown Barnsdall Buildings

The old newspaper building next door has an uncertain future, but the fire didn't burn the downstairs area. The owner said all of the original machines used for printing papers a hundred years ago still are inside. Her son, who made it to safety, was inside in his newly renovated upstairs apartment when the fire started at the old beauty shop.