Massive Fire Damages Historic Bartlesville Building

Monday, August 31st 2009, 7:25 am
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

BARTLESVILLE, OK -- A 99-year-old building in downtown Bartlesville was heavily damaged by a massive fire early Monday morning.  

The fire was reported at about 3 a.m. when a Bartlesville police officer on patrol noticed smoke pouring from a rear second-story window of a building at Frank Phillips Boulevard and Johnstone.

Firefighters tell The News On 6, it looks like the fire started with an electrical problem between the first and second floors.

The building housed the May Brothers Menswear store, which closed earlier this year. It currently housed eight tenants, including a restaurant.

Bartlesville Fire says the fire was out by 6 a.m.

The burned out structure is located across the street from the ConocoPhillips office complex.

ConocoPhillips officials say their downtown offices delayed opening until 10 a.m. because of the fire and firefighting equipment that had closed a number of downtown streets.

In all, 35 Bartlesville Fire and area emergency responders fought the blaze.

There were no reports of injuries.

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Several tenants are trying to figure out what to do next.

While the fire is gone, there is still a danger from it in downtown Bartlesville. The assistant fire chief says there is a slight risk of the building collapsing. The streets around the area will remain closed Monday as a precaution while many businesses try to pick up the pieces after fire.

"Seeing something like this leaves a big empty spot in the middle of your stomach," said Mike May, the owner of the building.

Mike May is the grandson of the first tenant, the man who built the legendary May Brothers Menswear store.

"It's the end of an era for Bartlesville. It's a landmark corner for the community and my family has been here since 1910," said Mike May.

99 years and the building still had eight active tenants.

"The structure is very unstable and we are concerned about a collapse," said Bill Hollander, Bartlesville Assistant Fire Chief.

Next door, the owners of the Inspirations Dance Studio are cleaning. They've been around for just two years and the damage is extensive.

"We think it will be okay. There's just a lot of water and smoke damage," said Andy Fox, Inspirations Dance Studio owner.

As Andy Fox begins to pick up the pieces, onlookers stood by in disbelief at the loss of the landmark.

"The building has been here for such a long time, is such an important building, that you hate to see it happen," said Bob Staub, an onlooker.

Mike May was a third generation owner and he's afraid the legacy will end with him.

"It's a sad day for the family. It really is," said Mike May.