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Great State: Saving the Blue Belle

GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA — It’s been a while since there was an actual gunfight at the old Blue Belle Saloon. There was a time a century ago when it was a regular occurrence. But believe it or not, the fight witnessed this October afternoon is staged by the Guthrie Gunfighters, and it marks some welcome attention.

After sitting vacant for several years, the Blue Belle is open thanks to Annie Silvers and her business partners. “You almost took on a sacred trust,” says a visitor about one of Oklahoma’s most famous bars. “That’s right,” agrees Silvers. “We know that. We feel that.”

Most of Annie’s business experience is in real estate but when she saw this Guthrie landmark for lease she hiked up her skirts and started work.

It wasn’t easy either. The old owners had stripped the place. There’d been a fire upstairs back in 2006 in what used to be Miss Lizzy’s Bordello. The whole place was a mess. “We painted the walls,” she says. “We bought new tables and chairs, and re-did the kitchen completely.” But the original bar was still in place.

Annie wanted to keep its wild history intact too. So she didn’t bother to cover the bullet holes in the ceiling or the window above the door. Silvers guesses about its origin. “It could have been the marshal,” she says. “We embrace it. We embrace the history that’s here and we respect it.”

More than a century ago a young Tom Mix tended bar and ran off troublemakers at the Blue Belle. Miss Lizzy ran a good business upstairs complete with a covered walkway straight into the hotel next door.

Lucille Mulhall used to drop by from time to time for a drink. The Blue Belle was where Oklahoma history came to relax. “It’s been here ever since,” says Silvers. It was closed for a time. It almost burned. But the old girl still had some kick left. Annie Silvers hopes she found enough to keep these doors open for good.