Operators of the historic J. Huston Tavern in Arrow Rock wasted no time getting it running again after a fire destroyed the kitchen and caused smoke damage in other rooms last month.
A mobile kitchen was set to be delivered to the tavern Friday, and food service could resume later this week, Friends of Arrow Rock Executive Director Sandy Selby said. It’s fully functioning and has all the appliances you’d see in a commercial kitchen, she said.
Missouri State Parks was building a platform for a large tent last week, which will serve as the dining area while the smoke damage is cleared in the dining area inside. The most extensive damage was in the tavern’s kitchen, and repairs to the rest of the building should take about a month. That means dining will move back inside before the hottest months of summer. Repairs to the kitchen will take longer, but the silver lining is the tavern will have a new kitchen in the end, Selby said.
The tavern is touted as the centerpiece of Arrow Rock State Historic Site and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
“Honestly, I think our outdoor dining situation is going to be kind of fun,” Selby said. “We’re going to try to make the most of it, maybe have some live music a few nights and just make it a little adventure.”
The kitchen burned May 17 in an overnight electrical fire in a small freezer unit. Response from the Saline County and Marshall fire departments and closed doors limited damage to much of the 19th-century portion of the building.
There’s no good time for a fire, but this fire came at a particularly bad time for the tavern as the Lyceum Theatre opened its 59th season Thursday. The theatre always draws crowds into Arrow Rock. The historic site and campground also are popular summer attractions, Selby said. The fact the tavern is getting back on its feet so quickly is a testament to the partnership between Friends of Arrow Rock and Missouri State Parks.
Missouri State Parks Deputy Director Mike Sutherland said the J. Huston Tavern is a priority because it’s the oldest continually-operating tavern west of the Mississippi River. Arrow Rock is one of the oldest parks in the state system, and it’s an especially significant place in Missouri history, he said.
Friends of Arrow Rock took over operations of the tavern from Missouri State Parks on Jan. 1 and opened for business in March. The newly-managed tavern had a successful first two months, bringing in 24 percent of what it made in all of 2018 in March and April, according to Missouri State Parks.
Missouri State Parks owns the building, and it will be paying for repairs and the mobile kitchen, Selby said. The mobile kitchen is being leased through the end of the year for $68,000, Sutherland said. The tent for the eating area was already owned by parks, and the platform will be reused. It’s still too early to tell what the cost of repairing the kitchen will be, he said.