FAIRBANKS - A landmark Nenana building that was at various times a courthouse, city office and post office before becoming a popular bar was destroyed in a fire Friday night.
According to Addam Parsons, a volunteer firefighter and EMT with the Nenana Fire Department, the fire started at about 4:30 p.m. in a cabin that was attached to Jester's Palace. Parsons believes the fire traveled down a connecting passageway and made its way up the wall to the roof, where it quickly became uncontrollable.
Fire crews from Clear Air Force Station and Anderson Volunteer Fire Department rendered mutual aid and approximately 50,000 gallons of water was used as they spent seven hours battling the blaze. The roof eventually collapsed and the outer walls started to burn, prompting the city mayor and one of the building's owners to push the walls down with a city tractor. This allowed fire crews to fully extinguish the fire, according to Parsons.
The cabin where the blaze likely started was saved but is probably not salvageable.
"The tops are black by the ceiling, the windows are all broken out, and we had to break both doors down. The inside is burned very badly. Between water damage and the fire damage, there's probably nothing useful in it," Parsons said.
Nenana resident Marilyn Duggar said the Jester's Palace building was built in the early 1900s and was used by local mushers as a meeting place after the post office moved out of it. The building sat empty for a long time until it was purchased by the Royal Order of Jesters, an offshoot of the Shriners Club, about six or seven years ago. The organization remodeled the building and turned it into "a really fun bar," Duggar said.
Parsons said Nenana residents are disappointed over the loss of the building and the bar it housed.
"It really had a lot of value to the community. It was really old, but it looked nice. It wasn't a dirty bar, it was a classy place," he said.
The cause of the fire is unknown and is under investigation.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.