ShareThis Page

Owner of Washington County's Century Inn vows to rebuild after fire

| Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, 11:20 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Gordon Harrington (left), 35, of Scenery Hill and Mikal Merlina, 38, of North Huntingdon salvage artwork from the second and third floors of the Century Inn in Scenery Hill on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Harrington and his mother, Megin Harrington, who owns the inn, were in the building when a fire broke out Tuesday. The Harringtons are assessing the damage to the historic building and hope to begin refurbishing it as soon as possible.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Megin Harrington, owner of the Century Inn, examines artwork salvaged from the top second and third floor of the building in Scenery Hill, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Harrington was in the building when a fire broke out, Tuesday, causing massive damage. Harrington is currently assessing the damage to the historic building and hope to begin refurbishing it as soon as possible.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Al Lucini of Scenery Hill carries down artwork salvaged from the Century Inn in Scenery Hill, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Megin Harrington, who owns the inn, was in the building when a fire broke out, Tuesday, causing massive damage.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Gordon Harrington, 35 of Scenery Hill (left) and Mikal Merlina, 38 of North Huntingdon inspect the second and third floor of the Century Inn in Scenery Hill, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Harrington and his mother, Megin Harrington, who owns the inn, were in the building when a fire broke out, Tuesday, causing massive damage. The Harringtons are currently assessing the damage to the historic building and hope to begin refurbishing it as soon as possible.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Mikal Merlina, 38 of North Huntingdon inspects second and third floor of the Century Inn in Scenery Hill, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Megin Harrington, who owns the inn, was in the building when a fire broke out, Tuesday, causing massive damage.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Gordon Harrington, 35 of Scenery Hill (right) and Matt Kinsey, 34, of California begin the salvage process at the Century Inn in Scenery Hill, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Harrington and his mother, Megin Harrington, who owns the inn, were in the building when a fire broke out, Tuesday, causing massive damage.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Artwork salvaged from the Century Inn in Scenery Hill, dries out on the front porch of the building, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Megin Harrington, who owns the inn, was in the building when a fire broke out, Tuesday, causing massive damage.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Mikal Merlina, 38 of North Huntingdon (right) and Gordon Harrington, 35 of Scenery Hill carry antique furniture out of the Century Inn in Scenery Hill, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Harrington and his mother, Megin Harrington, who owns the inn, were in the building when a fire broke out, Tuesday, causing massive damage. The Harringtons are currently assessing the damage to the historic building and hope to begin refurbishing it as soon as possible.

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 jcato@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.