Inspire • Equip • Restore

Developing Thriving Downtown Communities

On January 10, 2012, my wife, Christina, and I were woken by a door bell in the middle of the night. We live out in the country, and I can assure you that no one likes to be woken up by a sheriff. My oldest daughter is college age, so I opened the door with great trepidation about what could have happened.

"Are you Mr. Drake?"
"Yes sir."
"Do you own a building at 115 E. University?"
"Yes sir."
"Sir, your building has sustained significant damage by a fire. You need to come to town."
"Did everyone get out of the building safely?"
"Yes, all the tenants got out of the building safely."

Immediately when I saw the building early that morning, I thought, "Why this building, Lord?" This building was one of the best preserved buildings in town. It housed our offices and all the organizations involved directly in developing downtown were in the building; it had students and a lot of life in it. The fire severely damaged the historic Connelly Harrington House that was built in 1913. It completely destroyed the building's third story, and water and smoke damaged the remaining building. This was a devastating hit to downtown Siloam Springs.

By the end of the day, the fans were blowing, floors were mopped up, and tarps were covering the roof. I remember walking around the whole building thinking, "The building really looks good!" When I went back the next day, however, I unlocked the door and a whiff of smoke hit me. A new wave of reality sunk in that I had a disaster, and it was on this day that I broke down. I walked all around and it was truly emotional. I was deeply distraught. I remember asking myself, "Why am I so emotional over a building?" I discovered my grief was not caused by a loss of stuff, but I was grieving for the building itself. The building had been so well preserved, and in its 99th year it sustained a life-altering fire. I think it was another revelation of my passion for historic buildings and I was grieving over the fear and reality that the building would never be the same.

By the fall of 2012, we had the building completely rented out again, and the building is more successful because of it. We were able to discover things about the building we had never known about, and make upgrades we could not have done before. We made the apartments more functional, and now have a better cash flow than pre fire. The greatest accomplishments from this came in 2014 when I received the "Outstanding Personal Project" from the Historic Alliance of Arkansas for the preservation and restoration of this beautiful home. From this experience I now realize there is no project I'm afraid of, and no challenge I cannot face.