Building fire sparks historic memories for Jacksonville natives

Vacant building shares property with what was once Thunderbird Motor Hotel

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Flames ate away at a vacant building Wednesday in one of Jacksonville’s historic areas off Arlington Expressway.

No one was hurt in the blaze. which sparked memories for some, including Katherine Thomas, who was at the scene.

"Ann Sothern. Bob Hope. Jack Benny. I'd seen so many of them. I really experienced a lot there," Thomas said.

GALLERY: Abandoned building engulfed in flames

The small building that caught fire, which appeared to be used for storage, sent a surprising amount of flames shooting into the air.

Thomas and her daughter rushed over for a closer look when the flames lit up the night sky around 6:30 p.m., reminiscing about the larger building on the same property that was once the Thunderbird Motor Hotel and Thunderbird Dinner Theater back in the 1960s.

That larger building was most recently the Bethelite Conference Center, owned by Bethel Baptist Church, and before that, it was a Ramada Inn.

Thomas' daughter, Marilyn Reese, remembers when her mother worked at the Thunderbird Motor Hotel as the executive housekeeper.


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