GUILFORD - A historic landmark inn perched atop a
hill overlooking downtown and the Piscataquis River was nearly
destroyed by fire Saturday night.
Nearly 80 firefighters from seven departments
fought flames and subzero temperatures to quell the fire at the Trebor
Mansion Inn, Guilford Assistant Fire Chief Allen Emerson said Sunday.
Two firefighters were injured, but the occupants
of the inn, including owner Robert Shaffer, were evacuated safely.
The blaze was reported about 9:45 p.m. Saturday as
a wood-stove fire in an addition to the 173-year-old Victorian-style
mansion, according to Emerson. When the first unit arrived, flames were
shooting out of first-floor windows and the fire had advanced to the
second and third floors.
"This was one of the more difficult fires we've
had in quite some time because of the age of the building and the
weather," Emerson said Sunday. "Because of the many renovations, there
were a lot of false walls and ceilings. It just spread everywhere along
all those lines, and it was hard to get to until we could get into the
structure and tear down walls. It went through the roof and every side
of the building."
The main and oldest section of the inn appeared to
be a loss, according to Emerson. The newer section had mostly smoke and
heat damage and appeared to be repairable.
Investigators from the state Fire Marshal's Office
were expected at the scene today to determine a cause, according to
The assistant fire chief said that one Guilford
firefighter suffered broken ribs when he slipped on the ice-covered
porch, and another was treated for debris in his eyes.
Fire personnel remained on the scene until 5:30
a.m. Sunday, he said, but had to return to the scene a short time later
to douse a flare-up. Guilford firefighters spent Sunday afternoon
thawing out hoses and maintaining other equipment.
Firefighters from Sangerville, Monson,
Dover-Foxcroft, Cambridge, Dexter and Sebec assisted in fighting the
Constructed in 1830 by John Munroe, the Trebor
Mansion Inn was converted to a bed and breakfast 146 years later in
1976 by Robert and Larraine Vernal. The couple, formerly of Stamford,
Conn., spent $110,000 and nearly two years renovating the house and
When it opened on Christmas Eve in 1977, it had
seven guest bedrooms and six bathrooms, a den, library, living room,
dining room for guests and smaller dining room used primarily by the
The inn was heavily damaged in 1991 when a tree
that was uprooted by lightning crashed through the slate roof.
© 2004, Bangor Daily News, used with
GUILFORD - After three years of hard labor and
$80,000 in renovations, Robert and Zarvin Shaffer watched in awe last
year as a horrific fire reduced the Trebor Mansion Inn to a black shell.
The electrical fire on Jan. 24, 2004, that
consumed the beautiful woodwork and eclectic furnishings in the Queen
Anne Victorian building blackened ornate tin ceilings and destroyed a
slate roof. The damage would have caused most people to walk away
But the Shaffers briefly mourned their loss,
enlisted the aid of neighboring teenagers to chip away the 8-inch-thick
ice inside the building and then began rebuilding the circa-1830
"We were the only people who could restore it,"
Robert Shaffer said during a recent interview. "We had restored
historic homes before and no yuppie was going to come to Guilford and
drop $300,000 into it to restore it."
The unique building became an inn in 1978 and
could house 16 overnight guests, according to its Web site.
From the ashes of the fire came a discovery that
brightened the owners, for the fire revealed original Moses Eaton
stencils on a hallway wall. Eaton, an itinerant stenciler whose
well-documented work graced southern New England homes from the early
to mid-1800s, had embellished the wall with leaves and pineapples, a
symbol of hospitality.
Shaffer said he enlisted the aid of the Maine
Historical Society, which put him in touch with an artist who
specializes in restoring stencils. That restoration work will begin in
warm weather, he said.
But other work has been completed. The round tower
has been rebuilt, a feat that Shaffer was told couldn't be done, and
the demolished roof has been replaced with a new slate roof. The slate
of the former roof, installed in 1876, was from a Monson quarry and so
was the replacement slate, according to Shaffer, who wants to restore
the building as exactly as possible. "They cut it to fit and they made
it work," he said.
Repairs now are being made to the wrap-around
porch, and renovations are under way in the six guest bedrooms. A new
electrical system is being installed throughout the three-floor inn.
"It's going to take multiple teams of people to
get it right," Shaffer said of the renovations. For example, he said
450 balusters will have to be custom-made for the top of the porch, and
the windows also must be custom-made.
For Shaffer, it is a labor of love; after all, he
selected the house because it reminded him of his childhood home in
"I lived in New England before, and I thought it
would be the best place for my grandchildren, Darius and Julia," he
Shaffer hopes to reopen for business by late next
© 2005, Bangor Daily News, used with