Investigators are searching for what caused the Annapolis Yacht Club to be badly burned in a massive fire Saturday, destroying historic artifacts and trophies and causing the Parade of Lights event, which draws 20,000, to be canceled.
The city plans to expedite the permits needed to rebuild the iconic landmark, which traces its roots to 1886, according to WTOP.
The building was not historic — it was constructed in 1963 and had not been upgraded with a sprinkler system, Lisa Craig, chief of historic preservation for the city, told The Washington Post. Fire officials told WTOP that a sprinkler system “would have made a drastic difference.”
The fire forced the cancellation of a beloved annual Annapolis tradition, the Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade, the newspaper reported.
Hotel rooms facing the water are booked years in advance, and restaurant reservations are snapped up six months before the parade, an organizer said. A crowd of 20,000 gathers for the 6 p.m. cannon boom signaling the launch. What started 33 years ago with people on a few boats singing Christmas carols has become one of the biggest events in the city.
The damage sustained is still being determined, but the club is already taking stock of the losses among its artifacts.
“A lot of the very historical artifacts have been recovered, but a lot have been lost. That’s very unfortunate, but a lot have been lost,” Rod Jabin, commodore of the Annapolis Yacht Club, told WTOP.
“Most of the half-models on the second deck have been lost,” Jabin said, referring to half-hull wooden models of historic ships, typically mounted and displayed on walls to show the meticulous details of a ship’s construction.
Racing trophies are among the items the fire destroyed. Items salvaged, boxed and shipped to Baltimore to undergo restoration include Viking and America’s Cup trophies. “I’m hopeful on the trophies. I do know we’ve lost several trophies in the club,” Jabin said.
As yacht club leaders sifted through the fire-torched ruins of the waterside building on Sunday, the focus shifted to rebuilding and relocating.
“Our plans include, first and foremost, to try and find a suitable location to relocate the Annapolis Yacht Club and fly our flag from,” Jabin told WTOP Sunday. “We’ll rebuild and it will be better than it was before, and we’re looking forward to that.”
The fire destroyed much of the waterside building and sent two responders to the hospital with minor injuries.
“It’s a tragedy, but the wonderful news this holiday season is that … the public wasn’t in there, the members weren’t there and the staff got out. Everybody was safe,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who surveyed the club Sunday.
Hogan and Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides have vowed to clear red tape to help the club promptly rebuild.
“It’s a tragedy. It’s a huge loss for the city of Annapolis,” Pantelides said. “We’re going to take a leadership role, expedite their permits. We’re going to make sure to get this up and running as soon as we can.”
The club has publicly committed to financially support its 150 employees, whose jobs are affected by the fire, through the holidays.