Fire destroys landmark house in Burns

The community of Burns lost an architectural treasure in the early morning hours Friday when the large, southern-style house known to locals as ?The Barker House? and ?The Antebellum House? was destroyed by fire.

The fortunate news is that the current owners, Les and Rhonda Loucks, plus their seven child?ren, escaped the blaze unharmed.

Chief Terry Lowmaster from Fire District 10, which serve Burns, said he and fellow volunteers arrived on the scene shortly after 5 a.m.

?We had heavy smoke as soon as we arrived, then it flashed over, lights were blown out, windows were blowing out?from then on (the fire) just took off,? Lowmaster said. ?There was no way (to stop it). We had to go defensive from the git-go. We never had a chance.?

The Florence Fire Depart?ment also responded, sending four volunteers and equipment to assist. Lowmaster said a total of 20 firefighters responded.

The chimney was the only part of the structure that was still standing once the fire was extinguished. It was knocked down as a safety precaution.

A fire investigator from Augusta was on the scene by midmorning. Lowmaster said it will be difficult to determine the cause of the fire for some time yet, if at all.

?It?s probably going to be hot for a week,? Lowmaster said of the rubble in the basement. ?We?re not going to be able to get in there to dig through it.?

The house, reportedly, was shipped to Burns from New Orleans in the early 1900s by J.W. Barker, described in local historical sources as ?an extensive cattle feeder located three miles east of Burns.? He also owned a successful grain elevator, feed and hay business in Burns.

The original house included a full basement plus three stories above ground. On July 1, 1973, the top of the house, then owned by W.E. Street, was damaged by fire and removed. Even with two stories and a basement, the house was still 8,800 square feet, according to a source on the scene. In the early 1990s, the house was used as a restaurant called The Antebellum, and became known to many as ?The Antebellum House? as a result.

?It?s the icon of Burns,? Lowmaster said of the historic structure. ?The view of the skyline has changed at Burns, that?s for sure.?

The Loucks family, who lost all of its possessions in the blaze, has been receiving assistance from neighbors, churches and friends since the fire. The Red Cross and Salvation Army also were called to the scene, according to Lowmaster.

Ironically, the Loucks were nearing the completion of a restoration effort inside the house and were painting the exterior.

?I can tell you this much, just about everybody who lives in this town has been around to see what happened here?the family is across the street and there?s just been a steady stream of traffic,? said Kelly Jantz, assistant fire chief. ?You know that this house meant a lot to a lot of people, and their hearts are really going out to the family.?

An assistance fund has been established at Community National Bank, P.O. Box 54, 207 N. Washington, Burns, KS 66840. Indicate ?Loucks Family Fund? in the memo line of the check.

(Free Press photos by Don Ratzlaff; Barker House photo from “Days to Remember: The Burns Community 1864-1970” by Hazel C. Bruner)

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