Fire Destroys Historic Buildings in Harpers Ferry

Late last night over 80 firefighters from counties in West Virginia, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland were called to the historic town of Harper’s Ferry by a neighbor who heard the sound of flames outside her home.

Photo by Ron Clark

By 4:00am when firetrucks arrived, the fire had burned through multiple apartments and local businesses including The Sandwich Deli, LeNiche Boutique, Sofie & Bailey Dog Shop, Village Shops Vintage Lady, and Fair Trade. Sadly the firefighters were unable to save all the buildings, some of which dated back before the Civil War, but thankfully no one was injured. Currently the cause of the fire is unknown.

After his wife Laura had called 911 and alerted neighbors, Ron Clark, the owner of The Outfitter at Harpers Ferry, captured this terrifying video of the fire sweeping through the buildings.

Before the fire dept showed up 3:20

Posted by Ron Clark on Thursday, July 23, 2015

According to David Fox with the National Park Service, this tragedy “will have an impact on these independent businesses and the few people that live in this immediate area.” This will also impact the hikers who pass through Harpers Ferry every year, treasuring it as the unofficial halfway point and home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Harpers Ferry is one of the most historic towns in the U.S. and certainly like no other along the trail. It holds incredible history for our country and memories for our trail community. When tragedies like this happen it should be a reminder to us all to value the beauty around us and to constantly support each other.

View from the beautiful home of Ron & Laura Clark

During my 2014 thru-hike (and almost exactly a year ago), I was blessed to spend time and share a few meals with Ron & Laura Clark in their home just behind where the fire burned last night. To think that these folks who were kind enough to welcome me into their home & give me a place to sleep were so close to losing everything they’d worked for for 20 years is a terrible feeling.

I am incredibly grateful they and everyone else in Harpers Ferry came out of last night safe, but my prayers are with the business and apartment owners who lost everything. These businesses were part of what gave the small community of 300 people its cheer and charm. I hope the Harpers Ferry community can come together to rebuild soon, and I hope that our Appalachian Trail community will find a way to help them find their footing during this tragic time.


Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 4

  • Laurie Potteiger : Jul 24th

    Thank you so much, Bennett, for covering this story of our beautiful town of Harpers Ferry and the tragic loss to our small-business community. All of the business owners who lost their shops were incredibly hard-working people who supported the A.T. in many different ways.

    Two of them had taken the steps to earn the designation of A.T. Community Supporter and others were planning to. Many times these business owners took special steps to support hikers and ATC. A couple of examples: Martha Ehlman of the Tenfold Fair Trade donated fair trade chocolate to our Flip-Flop Kick Off in May. Cindy Dunn at the Vintage Lady made made a special Appalachian Trail soap for our 75th anniversary celebration of the A.T. They have promoted A.T. events and baked cakes for our annual A.T. contest, and welcomed hikers even when they might have benefited from that special A.T. soap.

    I don’t yet know how we can support the businesses who lost so much, but please keep coming to Harpers Ferry and support the businesses who are here. Hopefully they will be able to return eventually. The remaining business owners will be spreading themselves thin to help with clean-up and support their friends. The Outfitter at Harpers Ferry, strategically positioned between two ice cream stores, always has a fun, new A.T. t-shirt as well as the latest backpacker essentials.

    Harpers Ferry is still one of the most wonderful places on this earth to visit. It’s the best town for day-hiking anywhere. If you passed through Harpers Ferry as a thru-hiker, there’s 99% chance you missed the spectacular view from Maryland Heights (it’s a strenuous hike off the A.T.) But it’s perfect as a stand-alone day-hike. It’s a good workout that offers a wonderful view of the storybook town of Harpers Ferry, the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you’re not up for a big hike, there are many miles of trail in and around the mountains, rivers, and battlefields of Harpers Ferry, ranging from flat to strenuous.

    So, come visit Harpers Ferry for a hike and spend some time in town!

    Here are some useful links:

  • Seana Willis Blake : Jul 30th

    Hey –Tandem, right?! Goat Mama here! Really appreciated your story on the tragic events in Harpers Ferry. Please let the community at large know if an effort to help and show support during the tough times ahead gains momentum. I hope all is well with you and Buzz and that your next adventure becomes reality soon!

  • Laurie Potteiger : Jul 31st

    Here are ways that have been set up to support the businesses that have been devastated: (information on events, t-shirts, and where to send a check if you’d rather do your financial support that way)


What Do You Think?