Fire on the Mountain

By Rebecca Crago, Research Center Coordinator, Historical Society of Frederick County | Posted on 08.16.13 – History, Look Back

“Guests Flee in Night Clothing as Fire Destroys Hotel Braddock,” read the front page headline of The Frederick Post on Aug. 12, 1929.

At about 6 a.m. the previous day, a neighbor saw smoke rising from the hotel roof, prompting him to alert the night clerk on duty. About 50 guests were evacuated from the building in their gowns and robes and were given shelter by nearby cottagers of the resort town. Fortunately, there were no deaths or reported injuries.

The cause of the fire, which started between the third floor and the attic, was never determined. It burned at a rapid pace with the help of wind, putting nearby structures in danger of the flames. The excessive heat created by the blaze caused a nearby telephone pole to catch fire. The Braddock Heights Fire Company, with help from the Independent Hose and Citizens Truck companies, doused the nearby buildings with water when it became apparent that saving the hotel was a hopeless cause.

The estimated cost of damage amounted to $100,000 in 1929 currency (more than $2.3 million today). The only salvaged hotel property amounted to less than $100 and included dining room chairs, porch furniture, mattresses and other bedding. Before vacating, some guests threw personal belongings out of the windows and gathered them up after their escape. Those who didn’t act quickly lost all that was left behind.

Hotel Braddock, once considered the crown jewel of the retreat town, was built just 24 years before the accident, and in its short span played host to hundreds of out-of-towners who found leisure in Braddock Heights during the summer. With views of both the Frederick and Middletown valleys, the 70-room hotel featured every modern convenience of the period, including rooms with baths, wide verandas, a grand ball room and a garage that could accommodate 15 “machines.” While tourists continued to visit Braddock Heights for its various amusements throughout the next decade, the hotel was never rebuilt, as the newly built Vindobona Hotel took its place.