Piece Of Vinita History Lost As Downtown Building Burns

Monday, November 26th 2012, 5:08 pm
By: News On 6

A Oklahoma building that dates to the early 20th Century has been lost to an electrical fire.

It was most recently home to a mining company and law firm, but the building in Vinita had been used as a candy factory and even as a musical theater.

It burned Saturday night.

It's been nearly two days, but the historic building in Vinita is still smoldering.

"You never plan for this enough and what wasn't damaged by the fire was damaged by the water putting out the fire," said owner Clay Hartley.

Hartley and his family have owned the building for more than 30 years.

The only things that weren't damaged by the fire were in a safe or in fireproof cabinets.

"I hate to lose it all, but nobody got hurt, and there's a lot of worse things that are going on right now. We just lost stuff. It can be replaced," Hartley said.

11/25/2012 Related Story: Historic Downtown Vinita Building Goes Up In Flames

But what can't be replaced, Hartley said, is the unique history surrounding this lot.

It starts back before statehood, when the federal government had a different building here that was used as a prison. Those grounds were the only place a legal hanging ever took place in the city of Vinita.

The U.S. government gave the building to Craig County, which tore it down and built the middle section of the current structure in the late ‘20s.

No one is quite sure what it was used for then, but Hartley said he's been told there was a stage inside, as well as some bleachers for patrons to watch a show.

"That was well before my time," Hartley said.

In the 1940s, the Works Progress Administration expanded the building and made it an annex to the Craig County courthouse, but that didn't last too long.

After World War II, it became home to probably its most unique tenant.

Hartley said he remembers coming across some excessively large water pipes in the basement, a few years back. He couldn't figure out what they were for until he later learned they were used when this building was a candy factory.

Now all that's left are piles of ash and soot, wooden blinds drifting in the wind, and memories of a piece of Oklahoma's history.

"I really liked the building; it had a lot of character. I really enjoyed having the offices here and I hate to lose it," Hartley said.

So, for now, the Hartleys are looking for a new building to house their business. In the meantime, he said he expects the building to be demolished sometime in the near future.