Wayson's Restaurant gutted by fire after 65 years at Arundel crossroads

November 29, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

A 65-year-old restaurant that gave its name to the crossroads hamlet of Wayson's Corner in Southern Anne Arundel County was destroyed early yesterday by a roaring, five-alarm blaze that took nearly 100 firefighters from three counties 6 1/2 hours to bring under control.

Wayson's Restaurant and Liquor Store was closed at 1:31 a.m. when the first alarm was called in. A passer-by noticed smoke coming from the building at the junction of state Routes 4 and 408, about five miles east of Upper Marlboro.

By the time firefighters arrived, the restaurant was engulfed in flames.

Very little water was available in the rural area. Firefighters had to tap into the Patuxent River, about a half-mile away for water to fight the fire.

"They told us right away they couldn't put it out," said Conrad Wayson, 32, grandson of the restaurant's founder. "The best they could do was to stop it from spreading."

Four more alarms were sounded in the next hour and fifteen minutes, summoning 94 firefighters from Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Calvert counties. They battled the blaze until it was declared under control at 7:50 a.m., said Lt. Robert H. Kornmann, an Anne Arundel Fire Department spokesman.

No one was injured, but the fire destroyed the 7,000-square-foot restaurant that seated about 150. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million, said Lieutenant Kornmann. An adjoining gas station was damaged but not destroyed.

Wayson's Bingo Hall and Wayson's Mobile Court, a 250-home trailer park behind the restaurant and bingo hall, were not damaged, even though burning embers carried by a strong wind pelted the roof of the bingo hall.

"We're fortunate it was raining hard last night," Mr. Wayson said. "Otherwise, I think we would have lost the bingo hall."

Lieutenant Kornmann said yesterday investigators don't know what caused the fire.

Mr. Wayson said his security guard told him nothing was amiss when he closed the restaurant at midnight Saturday. Later, after the fire was reported, Mr. Wayson watched helplessly as his restaurant burned.

"It was a landmark," said Bill Brown, an employee of the Wayson family.

"It was a working man's place," said Francis Moreland, 62, an excavating contractor. "Good food, good service. I've been coming here all my life."

Yesterday afternoon, as firefighters used heavy equipment to pull apart the wrecked building and douse smoldering embers, people gathered to watch, some taking snapshots of the ruined structure.

James Spradlin, 70, a retired auto mechanic who lives in the Wayson mobile home park, said he's been eating at Wayson's since he moved to the area in 1953. He was sad to see it go down in flames.

"I had planned on having my 50th wedding anniversary dinner there" in January, said Mr. Spradlin.

Mixed with the sadness yesterday was some good-natured joking among customers and employees.

"What's the special of the day?" Mr. Moreland asked Mr. Brown.

"Barbecued everything," answered Mr. Brown without skipping a beat.

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