Scientology's Old Celebrity Centre in East Dallas Burned Down Yesterday

The Church of Scientology's local Celebrity Centre, in case you haven't been, is in a spacious, three-decade-old office building in Las Colinas with lots of floor-to-ceiling windows. It moved there in 2009, having outgrown its previous digs, in a pink stucco mansion in East Dallas.

How they settled on that particular house -- it had a ballroom, large jacuzzi, and mirror-covered poles -- isn't clear, but they bought the property at the corner of Buckner Boulevard and Dixie Lane in 2000.

The Dallas Morning News did a piece on the property in 2005, spilling at least as much ink on Scientology's claim to being a perfectly normal, mainstream religion (Theresa Dolaway, the executive director of the Dallas church, told the paper, "People think we're about converting people. We're more about making a better civilization.") as about the house itself, though there was that, too:

When the church bought the property in 2000, the ornate abode was outfitted for entertaining, Ms. Dolaway said. "The ballroom featured a large Jacuzzi and was adorned with mirror-covered poles. "It was pretty gaudy," she said. "We toned it down a little bit."

The hot tub and the disco lights are gone now, and church members study silently in the remodeled room.

Throughout the Celebrity Centre, glimpses of the house's past meld with the modern elements of Scientology.

Sparkling chandeliers and elaborately patterned carpets decorate offices brimming with Scientology books and study materials. Personality and IQ tests are administered in the former kitchen, and stress tests are given in a refurbished bedroom downstairs. Scientologists can study and seek spiritual growth at the Celebrity Centre.

It's been vacant for a years now. Its current owner, according to Candy's Dirt, bought it for his 16-year-old daughter but never moved in. He's been trying to sell it for a couple of years now.

There's no obvious reason, then, that the house would catch fire, which it did yesterday afternoon. Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans announced it to the media just after 5 p.m.

"I am told that the roof is made of such a material that it is not only keeping the fire inside structure, but it is also slowing the ability of firefighters to put water on it from above," he said.

As pictures from the TV news helicopters show, it was a big fire. All that remains now is a charred shell.