Fire burns hole in Forks’ civic heart as well as its downtown
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Burned rubble is all that remains of the IOOF hall and an adjacent store building that once housed Olympic Pharmacy — and more recently, Dazzled by Twilight. -- Photo by Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — When a fire burned two buildings to the ground in the center of downtown Forks early Monday, it left a huge hole not just in the city’s landscape but in the community.

The Rainforest Arts Center, in the old International Order of Odd Fellows hall at 35 N. Forks Ave., housed a community theater, rooms for community activities and two spaces that were leased out to local businesses, said Mike Gurling, Rainforest Players spokesman.

“It’s the biggest building fire Forks has ever seen. It’s pretty horrendous,” Gurling said.

The community theater lost all of its costumes, everything in the prop room, at least $14,000 worth of electronics and lighting and all of the improvements to the stage and theater area, he said.

Gurling said there is no equivalent space in town, so the group will wait to see what will be covered under the separate insurance policies held by the city and by the theater group.

“We’re thinking we are going to have to start over from the beginning,” he said.

The organization’s first plays were held in the Forks High School theater, but the school was not set up for an independent production company to work alongside students, Gurling said.

“It’s the school’s space,” he said.

About 15 years ago, the Odd Fellows lodge deeded the Forks building over to the city of Forks, which partnered with the Rain­forest Players to manage the building as a community arts center, Gurling said.

A group of 15 core members of the Rainforest Players organized the theater group and managed the building, but a much larger portion of the community took part in plays and in work parties, he said.

The first play held at the Rainforest Arts Center was “Harvey,” and the Rain­forest Players staged fall and spring productions at the center every year since.

The 1925 IOOF building had received $300,000 in improvements, including a new roof and heating system, mostly paid for by community donations and grants, he said.

“The Big Bad Musical” was the last play held on the stage, in May, and the fall production had not yet been selected, Gurling said.

The theater seated 150 people, and it could be converted to a ballroom that was sometimes rented out for community dances and other events.

A secondary room had space for 50 people.

A square dance group used the building to hold weekly dance classes, and a spinning class kept 14 spinning wheels and looms on the third floor — all lost in the fire.

Two small retail spaces on the street level which provided an income for the Rainforest Players also were lost in the fire.

One of the building’s retail spaces was empty, and the other was occupied by Tienda Latina, a small Latin American merchandise and grocery store.

Tienda Latina had been in that space since before 1994, when the Rainforest Players took over the management of the building, Gurling said.

The owner of Tienda Latina lives in Mexico, Gurling said, and there were several employees employed at the store who no longer have jobs, he said.

The historic Olympic Pharmacy building, next door at 61 N. Forks Ave., was most recently occupied by the former Dazzled by Twilight, a store once devoted to merchandise inspired by the fictitious book and movie series set in Forks.

Before then, it was the Fern Gallery, noted for its unusual gifts.

Dazzled by Twilight was opened by Annette Root in October 2008 and was followed by Twilight Tours and Twilight Lounge, which were opened by Timothy Root.

In late 2011, Twilight Tours was sold to another operator in Forks, and the lounge and store closed in January 2012.

The store’s “Twilight” merchandise was sold to another store in Forks, and there was nothing inside the building that burned except for a fountain and some fake trees that had been built into the building as decor, Gurling said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 29. 2012 6:07PM
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