Monday, March 17, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Fire destroys landmark restaurant Rose's Hi-way Inn

DES MOINES — Rose's Hi-way Inn, a landmark restaurant that has been serving old-fashioned fried chicken for 66 years, was destroyed by fire shortly after 4 a.m. today.

The front of the restaurant remains standing, but the roof collapsed and the interior was gutted, said Monica Colby, spokeswoman for the Federal Way Fire Department.

Firefighters were still pouring water on the building more than two hours after the fire was reported by passersby who noticed heavy black smoke pouring from the building, Colby said.

The restaurant was started in 1937 by Rose Wilcox, who earlier had run a diner on the Seattle waterfront. She opened it as a truck stop on Highway 99, when that was the main traffic artery through the area.

Wilcox served the restaurant's famous fried chicken, battered and cooked in two-foot wide black skillets for 30 years, before it changed hands, but kept the old-fashioned habits of grilling chicken.

More recent owners broadened the scope of the menu to include such items as seafood, steaks and baby-back ribs

But the staple always was the chicken. A 1998 newspaper article noted that on one Sunday the restaurant served 350 helpings of their famous entree.

The single-story wood building was expanded from the original 1937 building which had a basement. Colby said the fire may have started in the basement. The surrounding additions made it difficult to get water on the source of the fire.


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