Community Center Destroyed in Portland, MO
PORTLAND - Fire on Friday evening destroyed the 130 year old building that served as Portland's community center. A cleaning woman entered the building around 5 pm and saw smoke coming out of the air conditioning unit. Fire then crawled up the walls, and the center was engulfed by six.
The loss of the center devastated the community of Portland, a small town of 400 people in eastern Callaway county.
"The whole community came here," said former local Rebecca Elm. She came with her daughter to visit the community center she grew up with.
"My house burned down, and we actually stayed in the center," said Elm.
Paul Pealer, a 30 year Navy Veteran who is now retired in Portland, grew up there. Growing up, the center was the town school, where he attended.
"My mother went to school here, my grandmother, and my grandfather went to school there," said Pealer.
More than the historical loss, there is now a problem of necessity. The locals used the center for everything from weddings to Christmas dinners.
In such a small town, no one knows what will replace the center until its rebuilt.
"The only other place would be the bar, you know, but if you don't drink, you don't go to the bar," said Elm.
The town is asking for donations towards rebuilding the center. Any donations can be made by check made out to "Portland Community Center," and sent to:
P.O Box 148
Portland, MO 65067