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Fountainhead Lodge, Once Oklahoma's Premiere Resort, Auctioned Off

By Josh Rabe, The Daily OklahomanMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Aug. 11, 2006 - EUFAULA -- What once was touted as the state's premiere resort lodge began to disappear Thursday, piece by piece.

Virtually everything inside the Fountainhead Lodge was sold at auction to make way for a planned Muscogee (Creek) Nation resort and casino. Auctioneer Louis Dakil said it was the largest sale of former state-owned property he'd seen.

"I've been in business 52 years, and I've never seen anything of this magnitude," Dakil said.

The lodge, which was built by the state and opened in 1965, had become run down after years of losing money and was sold to the tribe at a sheriff's auction for $2 million a year ago.

"We would like to make this a true destination point for the state," said Mike Flud, the tribe's chief of staff.

The tribe plans to build a casino but first must have the land placed in a federal trust. As for the lodge, the tribe's national council has not decided whether to renovate the dilapidated building or to demolish it.

Potential bidders moved through the old lodge's corridors as if at a wake before the auction began.

Most said they were sorry to see the lodge disappear but few had set foot there before Thursday.

"It's too bad if the tribe is going to tear it down," said Steve Kemmer, who moved to Eufaula after the lodge closed. "I'm sure that when it opened it looked really good."

Before bidding started Thursday morning, the auction hall was packed with people looking for a bargain. Some left with more than they bargained for.

"I got more than I can haul," said Bobby Landess of Oklahoma City. Landess walked out of the auction the proud owner of 188 brass headboards and 188 vanities that once adorned the rooms of the Fountainhead State Lodge. He paid $1 per piece.

"For a buck a piece even a fool can make money on it," Landess said. "This is about the cheapest auction I have seen."

Landess works for an air conditioning company but makes money in his spare time buying items at auction for resale.

Patrick Moore, a Creek judge, found two high-backed lounge chairs he bought for $27.50 and plans to re-cover them.

Dale and Lisa Dewalt said they came looking for kitchen equipment for their chain of B&J restaurants, and for a piece of nostalgia to bring home from the lodge, which had operated nearly four decades in the state before it closed.

"We would like to be able to say we got something from Fountainhead, but we haven't found anything really unique," Dale Dewalt said.

When Flud looks around the 59-acre plot, he doesn't see a dingy inn whose only occupants are now wasps and spiders. He sees possibilities, imagining rows of slot machines, rooms overlooking the lake, a marina, stables and elegant landscaping all around -- maybe even a day-care center. However, he said, those are just possibilities -- no plans have been finalized.

"If they can pull it off, it can be one of the top destinations in the state," Dakil said. "It will have an economic impact over a 50-mile radius."

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Daily Oklahoman

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