HAGERSTOWN, MD. Fire destroyed a historic hotel Friday owned by best-selling novelist Nora Roberts, who was remodeling it to turn it into a literary-themed inn.
The fire also badly damaged two other buildings in downtown Boonsboro but there were no injuries, Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph Zurolo said. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million, he said.
He said the fire started about 7:30 a.m. in the Boone Hotel, owned by Roberts and her husband, Bruce Wilder. It spread to the two other buildings.
Roberts, a longtime western Maryland resident, is best known for her romance novels, and has been a regular on the New York Times best-seller list since the early 1990s.
Among her recent books are "Treasures" and "Blood Brothers: Sign of Seven Trilogy, Book 1."Her husband runs a bookstore in the town of 3,200, some 60 miles northwest of Washington, D.C.
They were renovating the hotel and planned to open it this summer as an inn with each room reflecting a different romantic literary theme. The 2 1/2-story hotel dates to the late 1700s.
"It's devastating for us and for the town and for the other properties that were damaged. It's just really horrific," Roberts said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Zurolo said investigators haven't determined the cause of the fire. Wilder said he was told by renovation workers that it started when a propane tank they were using to fuel a heater fell over.
"There's nothing left but the stone from the original building and some of the brick wall," Wilder said.
Wilder said his Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe, across the street and several doors down, wasn't damaged.