CARTHAGE, Mo. —
After watching a historic building that housed his family home and business burn just over a week ago, Ronnie Stiles said he and his wife are not yet ready to start thinking about the future of the property — now an empty lot on the south side of the Carthage square.
“At this point, we don’t have a clue,” Stiles said Tuesday. “It all happened so fast, and it was such a shock.”
The June 1 blaze destroyed the Sassy Spoon Restaurant and Day Spa on the main floor of the structure, and the upper floor that Stiles and his wife, Crystal, had restored as their home.
Fire crews from Carthage, Joplin, Webb City and Carterville battled the blaze and confined it to the single building, sparing McBride’s Antique Store, which is just to the west.
The Grant Street lot containing the structure has been cleared, and Stiles said he and his wife have no immediate plans for the property.
“We’re still looking for a home for us,” he said. “Right now, I’m more concerned for the people who worked at the restaurant and salon that lost their income.”
Stiles said he and his wife had owned the building for nine years and worked for a year on its renovation. He said they managed to salvage an iron corner post and some cast-iron columns that had been manufactured by the Carthage Foundry, which at one time had been owned by Larry Ross, his sons’ grandfather.
The building was constructed in the 1860s after earlier buildings on the square were burned during the Civil War.
Judy Goff, president of Carthage Historic Preservation, said she is saddened by the loss — for the Stiles family and for Carthage’s history.
“They had done everything to help the square be vibrant, in terms of restoring their building with their own business and other businesses there,” she said. “They had done such a good job; it was a beautiful place.”
Goff said she expects there will be a lot of interest in the future of the property “from a historic preservation and business standpoint.”
The preservation group has not talked as a group about the fire and its aftermath, she said. Ronnie Stiles serves on the board of directors.
“We are glad they are safe, but we’re sorry for what they lost, and what Carthage lost,” Goff said. “Right now, I think they need time to sort out their thoughts.”
Stiles said he told Carthage officials that he wants to meet with city and historic preservation officials to talk about the property.
Tom Short, city administrator, said he has heard a lot of discussions about potential uses for the property.
“We’re waiting to hear from them; there’s no deadline,” he said. “The property is cleared, and they got that done as quickly as they could.”
Since the square is part of a historic district, any building on the property would have to receive approval from the city’s Planning, Zoning and Historic Preservation Commission. Crystal Stiles serves on that board, Short said.
Ronnie Stiles said he is grateful to the firemen who battled the blaze, and to friends, family and his church for the support the couple have received.
“We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers,” he said. “Right now, we’re trying to recover.”
IT’S NOT THE FIRST TIME that a fire has left a hole on the Carthage square. The historic Garland Building on the east side of the square was destroyed in a fire on May 31, 1988. The space later was filled by a new Carthage City Hall.