Lightning fire damages Box Hill Mansion

Abingdon building used for offices, storage

May 27, 2004|By Patrick Tyler | Patrick Tyler,SUN STAFF

A five-alarm fire caused by lightning led to nearly $200,000 in damage at Box Hill Mansion near Route 24 in Abingdon early yesterday, the state fire marshal's office said.

The mansion, a 2 1/2 -story frame building behind the Box Hill Corporate Center, is being used for offices and storage by Ward Development Group, said Chief Albert Bair of the Abingdon Volunteer Fire Company.

The fire was reported about 1 a.m., "Fire was coming through the roof when we got there. It was an extensive fire," said Bair, whose company was the first unit to respond to the blaze.

It was a difficult blaze to battle for several reasons, Bair said.

There was room for only three pieces of equipment on the lane at the isolated site. Firefighters had to cut a 1,000-foot path through the woods to take water and more gear to the building, Bair said.

It took about 20 minutes to get the fire under control, Bair said. "It's a well-built old house," the chief said. "We had to cut into it with saws. It took a lot of digging to get into where the fire was."

About 80 firefighters responded, including units from Abingdon, Joppa-Magnolia, Bel Air, Aberdeen, Kingsville, Jarrettsville, Level, Fallston and Havre de Grace. It took more than two hours to put the fire out, according to the state fire marshal's office. Firefighters remained on the scene until about 5:30 a.m.

Box Hill, at 3411 Emmorton Road, near the intersection with Route 24, was built about 1925 by Lawrence Simmonds, an investment banker and art patron. The structure is an example of the Colonial revival style of architecture. The house was famous for its formal gardens, designed by landscape architect Anna Merven Carrere, according to Christopher Weeks in An Architectural History of Harford County, Maryland.

The house is built on the site of Lauretum, a large stone house erected about 1800 by a member of Harford County's noted Hall family. Lauretum was damaged by fire in 1920.

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