The North Tower Circle Rises (Part I)

After months of waiting, the re-construction of the North Tower Circle began July 3rd, 2006 with the construction company pulling in their vehicles and starting work.

The North Tower Circle has been a fixture on and off in the gay community of Fresno for over 30 years.  The unique round shaped nightclub that sits by the railroad tracks on Maroa Avenue has been sitting vacant for almost a year now, after an arsonist set it on fire in the early morning hours of  September 26th, 2005 . The fire was one of a  series of arsons  which took place within a two block area of the neighborhood that sits on the edge of the Tower District.

Local news participated in a press conference just outside the North Tower Circle, organized by Equality California, and the arson, as well as the state of the LGBT community in Fresno was written about in the national LGBT publication, The Advocate. After over four months of official investigation the fire was  definitively ruled to be arson. The person responsible has yet to be identified or arrested. Any information should be reported to Crime Stoppers at 559-498-STOP.
Virgil Wigley, owner of the North Tower Circle as well as The Red Lantern on Belmont, which celebrates it’s 30th Anniversary this coming September, could easily have taken the loss of the club and walked away. Instead, he made a firm commitment to himself and the gay community to resurrect the nightclub, unwilling to allow the acts of a criminal to destroy a historic fixture and gathering place for Fresno’s LGBT community.
Nowhere was it more apparent how much the North Tower Circle is missed by the LGBT community than at this years annual  Pride Parade. The float for both the Red Lantern and the Circle, designed by Don Passmore, received cheers and applause all along the parade route. As spectators saw the NTC logo they yelled out approval and even ran up to the float to verify the Circle would re-open and to ask for details.
Current plans have the Circle opening sometime in the fall of 2006. There will be alterations to the design of the club in the re-construction process, and as details become available we’ll provide updates. Check back on Gay Fresno for updates. We will be providing progress reports on the re-construction as well as a series of article focusing on the history of the North Tower Circle.

(We are seeking personal stories involving the North Tower Circle from any period of it’s 30 year history serving the LGBT community in Fresno. If you have a story you’d like to share with us please contact Chris Jarvis at [email protected] )

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