Owner of Washington County's Century Inn vows to rebuild after fire
A day after a fire gutted much of a historic Washington County treasure, the sun beamed Wednesday over and into the charred Century Inn.
Much of the roof was burned away, the interior blackened, and boards covered 220-year-old window frames.
But Megin Harrington, owner of the Scenery Hill property, sounded resolute that this week's fire would not be the last chapter for the old stone inn that hosted presidents George Washington, Andrew Jackson and James Polk, as well as other notable dignitaries.
“We're getting the beginnings of a plan,” Harrington, 67, said. “We're going to rebuild the inn.”
Insurance adjusters are still working to determine the value of what was lost. Harrington said there is no timeline.
Family and friends helped search the bed and breakfast, restaurant and bar for precious items not claimed by the fire.
Much of Harrington's vast art and antiques collection is gone.
“I was really, really proud of my art collection,” said Harrington, who estimated 98 percent of it was gone. “My mantra is that it's just stuff, though it really isn't.”
A few art pieces were found in better condition than expected, including a soot-covered 1700s English painting that rested against blackened furniture in the front yard.
“We will try to get it restored,” Harrington said.
Also plucked from the carnage and sent to a restoration expert was Harrington's cherished highboy, an antique cabinet believed to date to 1750.
A collection of old baskets that coal miners used to carry canaries underground survived in the bar, as did several wooden chairs and a pair of original dining room benches that came with the property when Dr. Gordon Harrington and his wife, Mary, bought it in 1945. Megin Harrington married their son, Gordon Harrington Jr., who died in a 1987 plane crash.
Workers on Wednesday recovered Harrington's purse, which she left in her third-floor living quarters when she fled the fire about midnight Monday. It had fallen all the way to the first floor.
“Now we're looking for my wedding ring,” she said.
Some of the burned but still intact furniture might be cleaned and refinished to be placed inside the inn, should it be renovated, said family friend and former employee William Harvey.
“This fire is now part of the inn's history,” said Harvey, 57, who owns Elves Lair, a Christmas store across Route 40 from the Century Inn and its 27-acre property.
No one was injured in the fire, which state police ruled accidentally started in a mechanical room. Harrington and her oldest son were the only people in the building, as the inn is closed to guests on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Mother and son grabbed the only known surviving flag from the 1790s Whiskey Rebellion as they fled. It hung in The McCune Saloon, one of the country's longest-operating taverns.
Thomas Hill opened Hill's Stone Tavern on the National Road property in 1794. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Jason Cato is a writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.