Solomons' Lighthouse at End of the Tunnel
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The Lighthouse Inn at Solomons Island will soon rise from its ashes.
The original inn, an institution on the island and a favorite destination for boaters, residents and visitors, was destroyed in a March 2006 fire.
The blaze, started by a cigarette discarded near Bowen's Inn, also claimed that historic bar and hotel, and a four-unit condominium building. No one was injured.
Richard Fisher, 54, owner of the condo units and the original Lighthouse Inn restaurant, which opened in 1985, has promised a bigger and better establishment and said he plans for it to be open for the 2009 season.
"It is the worst financial decision I can make, but it is all about community. I think this building we designed will bring Solomons back to what it should be," Fisher said.
He said that last year, as he watched with others as the blaze overtook the two inns, all he could think of was his employees' welfare and his restaurant's meticulously hand-crafted skipjack bar, modeled after the historic Chesapeake Bay oyster-dredging boats. He couldn't move, he recalled recently; he was in shock.
"Then I saw this catch [fire]," Fisher said, pointing to his newly constructed condos. "I realized I lost everything."
Several of the local treasures dredged up by oyster men and traded to Fisher for free cocktails are gone. The fire took precious family albums and memories, too, he said. But he has copies of many of the prints that hung in the original Lighthouse Inn and some other artifacts he can use for the new restaurant.
"I'm eager to get started," Fisher said.
Calvert County Commissioner Barbara A. Stinnett (D-At Large) said that when she heard Fisher had finally obtained all of his permits and was moving forward, "It is like, hallelujah! Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!"
Since the fire, visitors have asked frequently about rebuilding plans. Kim Harkins said many of the customers at the jewelry store she manages, Maertens on the Island, have asked about the blaze and when the destination restaurant will be back.
"People come down and that is the restaurant they go to," Harkins said. "It is so quiet. It is a small town. We miss those kinds of things."