A lake area establishment that has been entertaining visitors for more than 50 years went up in flames Sunday morning. Joyce Mace and many of her family and friends watched in shock and sadness as lake area firemen battled to save the iconic Ozark Opry that she and her late husband Lee had virtually built from the ground up in 1957.
Mace was pulled from church in Linn Creek by her nephew who was in Climax Springs when he got the call that the building was in flames. He raced to her church, and they arrived on the scene where they stood helplessly with other family members and friends.
Firemen were on the scene for several hours, and a cause had not been determined by late afternoon. An Osage Beach Police Department officer was monitoring traffic nearby when he saw flames coming from the front of the building and made the emergency call around 11 a.m.
Upon arriving at the scene, a fire had burned through the front part of the roof, damaging the iconic Ozark Opry sign. Fire personnel also investigated smoke billowing out of the rear of the building. As fire personnel worked to get the fire under control, many motorists stopped their cars to take a picture of the legendary establishment as it continued to belch smoke. By 12:30 p.m., firefighters had torn off part of the roof to release more smoke trapped inside the building.
Osage Beach Fire Protection District, Lake Ozark Fire Protection District, Eldon Fire Department and Mid County Fire Protection District all responded to the scene.
Lee Mace's Ozark Opry closed in 2005, 20 years after Lee died on Father's Day in 1985.
The Opry performed an Ozark-style music show for 53 years. Mace and her family continued to operate the historical Opry until it closed its doors for the final time.
Mace said Sunday that the building was virtually untouched from when it closed. She maintained an office toward the rear of the building, and many original recordings, photos and other memorabilia were inside. The theater still contained seating as well. The Lee Mace Recording Studio was still intact in the rear of the facility.
Mace said she and Lee, who owned a brick plant at the time, built much of the Opry with their own hands. The first Ozark Opry started on the Strip in Lake Ozark before the Maces built the present building in 1957.
Mace said there was little chance the Opry would be rebuilt.
"This place was the heart of our family," Mace's niece Belinda Phillips said as firemen continued to gain control of the fire.
The family was anxious to get inside to see what was left of their heritage.
Page 2 of 2 - Fire investigators determined that an electrical cord plugged into a recording device ignited the fire and called the event unintentional.
More information will be released as it becomes available.