Real Estate - Commercial

After Fire, Owners Of Downtown Landmark Plan To Renovate – Again – And Reopen ASAP

By Cece Nunn, posted Jun 15, 2023
An accidental kitchen fire, according to fire department officials, damaged The Graystone Inn on Wednesday night in downtown Wilmington. (Photo by Cece Nunn)

Jamie Alfalla's dreams nearly went up in smoke Wednesday night.

One of the owners of The Graystone Inn, Alfalla said Thursday morning that she and her partners will restore the downtown Wilmington inn after a fire caused massive smoke and water damage inside the historical landmark at 101 S. Third St. 

The cause was determined by the fire marshal’s office to be an accidental kitchen fire, according to a news release from the Wilmington Fire Department. The inn’s owners had already spent $3.5 million on renovations to the bed-and-breakfast, which was originally built as a home around 1905. They had also just opened a fine-dining establishment, Preston Restaurant, on the first floor June 9.

“We're looking to reopen as quickly as possible. We're talking about probably a six-month renovation to reopen. It is devastating, but we are optimistic,” Alfalla said as she stood outside the inn Thursday, working with Servpro Restoration Services crews. “We have an incredible team. …  we feel super-blessed that nobody was critically injured and that everyone is safe.”

When firefighters responded to the call, which came around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the fire was found inside the walls of the building near the kitchen area, according to the fire department’s release. No guests were harmed but three firefighters had to be transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the release stated.

“Crews arrived on scene and quickly searched the entire structure to ensure all occupants were out,” said Assistant Chief of Operations Derek Mickler in the release. “They then began making access through the interior walls to locate any fire extension and initiated a coordinated fire attack.”

Of the inn’s 11 rooms, there were only two Thursday morning that weren’t filled with water from efforts to douse the fire, Alfalla said, and the third floor has extensive fire damage. Alfalla said the fire department was called after a small amount of smoke was seen, but she declined to share any additional details about the incident’s start, such as whether a smoke alarm went off. 

Originally called The Bridgers Mansion, the home was built by Elizabeth Haywood Bridgers. It was purchased in 2004 by Richard and Marcia Moore, and they sold it to Alfalla Hospitality in 2021 for nearly $2 million.

“I think the biggest message that I have is just how grateful we are,” Alfalla said. 

The firefighters “did everything that they could to save this historic landmark,” she said. “They were very careful; when I say that they were careful – they even put a tarp over our piano. They just went above and beyond.”

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