Four Historic Buildings Devastated in 3-Alarm Fire in Harpers Ferry

Four historic buildings in Harpers Ferry were devastated early Thursday in a three-alarm fire.

The historic buildings on High Street were gutted by the fire and left with nothing to salvage. They'd been constructed in the 1800s.

Cindi Dunn's store, The Vintage Lady, was among those destroyed in the blaze. The building had dated back to 1840.

"What this has done, not just to me personally, but to the fabric that is Harpers Ferry, is just devastating," Dunn said. She said it was a comfort to know that no one was hurt in the blaze, but she is worried about the long-term impact on the town.

Mayor Gregory Vaughn said he was notified of the fire around 4:30 a.m. 

"This is devastating for Harpers Ferry, one of the most historic towns in the U.S.," Vaughn said. "It's a national treasure."

The cause and cost of damage have not been determined yet, but the entire tight-knit community feels the loss.

"When it actually happens in a small town like this, it's your neighbor," said Harpers Ferry resident Chris Corder. "You know everybody that's affected."

Firefighters from Loudoun County, Virginia and Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland were called in to help extinguish the fire. Firefighters remained on the scene at midday Thursday, watching for hot spots and putting out flare-ups that have turned up throughout the morning.

The fire occurred in the commercial area adjacent to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, which draws tens of thousands of visitors annually.

Harpers Ferry closed its historic lower town district Thursday because firefighters were using water from the district's fire hydrants to battle the fire, said park historian Dennis Frye. The district includes museums and exhibits.

Frye said the rest of the park remained open and alternative programming was being provided for visitors at other sites.

Harpers Ferry sits on a peninsula at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle. The town was the site of a failed raid on a federal arsenal in 1858 by abolitionist John Brown. During the Civil War, Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865. 

Most of Harpers Ferry became part of the National Park Service in 1944. 

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